Förster resonance energy transfer-based sensor targeting endoplasmic reticulum reveals highly oxidative environment

Vladimir L. Kolossov, Matthew T. Leslie, Abhishek Chatterjee, Bridget M. Sheehan, Paul J.A. Kenis, H. Rex Gaskins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The glutathione thiol/disulfide couple is the major redox buffer in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER); however, mechanisms by which it contributes to the tightly regulated redox environment of this intracellular organelle are poorly understood. The recent development of genetically encoded, ratiometric, single green fluorescent protein-based redox-sensitive (roGFP) sensors adjusted for more oxidative environments enables non-invasive measurement of the ER redox environment in living cells. In turn, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) sensors based on two fluorophore probes represent an alternative strategy for ratiometric signal acquisition. In previous work, we described the FRET-based redox sensor CY-RL7 with a relatively high midpoint redox potential of -143 mV, which is required for monitoring glutathione potentials in the comparatively high oxidative environment of the ER. Here, the efficacy of the CY-RL7 probe was ascertained in the cytosol and ER of live cells with fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. The sensor was found to be fully reduced at steady state in the cytosol and became fully oxidized in response to treatment with 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene, a depletor of reduced glutathione (GSH). In contrast, the probe was strongly oxidized (88%) upon expression in the ER of cultured cells. We also examined the responsiveness of the ER sensor to perturbations in cellular glutathione homeostasis. We observed that the reductive level of the FRET sensor was increased two-fold to about 28% in cells pretreated with N-acetylcysteine, a substrate for GSH synthesis. Finally, we evaluated the responsiveness of CY-RL7 and roGFP1-iL to various perturbations of cellular glutathione homeostasis to address the divergence in the specificity of these two probes. Together, the present data generated with genetically encoded green fluorescent protein (GFP)-based glutathione probes highlight the complexity of the ER redox environment and indicate that the ER glutathione pool may be more oxidized than is currently considered.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)652-662
Number of pages11
JournalExperimental Biology and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2012


  • Endoplasmic reticulum
  • Förster resonance energy transfer
  • Glutathione
  • Green fluorescent protein
  • Live cell imaging
  • Redox-sensitive probe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)


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