Two-photon excited-state dynamics of mEGFP-linker-mScarlet-I crowding biosensor in controlled environments

Sarah A. Mersch, Sarah Bergman, Erin D. Sheets, Arnold J. Boersma, Ahmed A. Heikal

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Macromolecular crowding affects many cellular processes such as diffusion, biochemical reaction kinetics, protein-protein interactions, and protein folding. Mapping the heterogeneous, dynamic crowding in living cells or tissues requires genetically encoded, site-specific, crowding sensors that are compatible with quantitative, noninvasive fluorescence micro-spectroscopy. Here, we carried out time-resolved 2P-fluorescence measurements of a new mEGFP-linker-mScarlet-I macromolecular crowding construct (GE2.3) to characterize its environmental sensitivity in biomimetic crowded solutions (Ficoll-70, 0-300 g L−1) via Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) analysis. The 2P-fluorescence lifetime of the donor (mEGFP) was measured under magic-angle polarization, in the presence (intact) and absence (enzymatically cleaved) of the acceptor (mScarlet-I), as a function of the Ficoll-70 concentration. The FRET efficiency was used to quantify the sensitivity of GE2.3 to macromolecular crowding and to determine the environmental dependence of the mEGFP-mScarlet-I distance. We also carried out time-resolved 2P-fluorescence depolarization anisotropy to examine both macromolecular crowding and linker flexibility effects on GE2.3 rotational dynamics within the context of the Stokes-Einstein model as compared with theoretical predictions based on its molecular weight. These time-resolved 2P-fluorescence depolarization measurements and conformational population analyses of GE2.3 were also used to estimate the free energy gain upon the structural collapse in crowded environment. Our results further the development of a rational engineering design for bioenvironmental sensors without the interference of cellular autofluorescence. Additionally, these results in well-defined environments will inform our future in vivo studies of genetically encoded GE2.3 towards the mapping of the crowded intracellular environment under different physiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3927-3940
Number of pages14
JournalPhysical Chemistry Chemical Physics
Issue number5
StatePublished - Jan 8 2024
Externally publishedYes

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© 2024 The Royal Society of Chemistry.

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