A FRET sensor enables quantitative measurements of membrane charges in live cells

Journal: Nature Biotechnology

Published: 2017-03-13

DOI: 10.1038/nbt.3828

Affiliations: 5

Authors: 7

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Research Highlight

New potential for measuring cell voltage

© KTSDESIGN\Science Photo Library\Getty

© KTSDESIGN\Science Photo Library\Getty

A new sensor enables researchers to quickly and precisely measure the voltage across cell membranes, known as the membrane potential, which affects processes such as transport across the membrane and cellular signalling.

The sensor was developed by a team at the University of New South Wales, Australia, by modifying an existing membrane potential sensor known as R-pre. The new sensor comprises two connected light-sensitive proteins attached to the inside of the cell membrane. One of the proteins transfers energy to the other in order to make it fluoresce. The first is permanently linked to the cell membrane to serve as an anchor, while the second, a modified R-pre, is attached to the membrane by electrostatic interactions. When the membrane potential changes, the second subunit detaches from the membrane, moving it away from its partner and reducing the efficiency of their fluorescence.

The speed and reversibility of the reaction, along with the new sensor’s stability, offer the possibility of nuanced investigations of processes affecting membrane potential in live cells.

Supported content

  1. Nature Biotechnology 35, 363-370 (2017). doi: 10.1038/nbt.3828
Institutions Share
UNSW Node of EMBL Australia in Single Molecule Science, Australia 0.50
University of New South Wales (UNSW Sydney), Australia 0.50