Photobleaching fluorescence resonance energy transfer reveals ligand-induced oligomer formation of human somatostatin receptor subtypes

Methods. 2002 Aug;27(4):340-8. doi: 10.1016/s1046-2023(02)00092-0.


The existence of dimers and higher oligomers of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) has been frequently reported using strategies based on coimmunoprecipitation or Western blot assays. These methods rely on highly artificial systems with overexpressed receptors, resulting in conflicting observations on the question of whether GPCR dimers are preformed or are formed in response to agonist treatment. Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) microscopy is a superior and less perturbing technique which can be performed on selected cell regions, e.g., plasma membrane of intact cells with a sensitivity high enough to allow study under physiological levels of receptor expression. Here we describe the application of photobleaching (pb) FRET microscopy for investigating ligand-dependent oligomerization of somatostatin receptors. Procedures for the introduction of suitable donor-acceptor fluorophores in a given GPCR are described. The competitive nature of FRET and photobleaching is exploited to enable the indirect measurement of FRET via its effect on donor photobleaching lifetimes on a pixel-by-pixel basis. The method allows enhanced resolution between 10 and 100A and represents a sensitive and specific biophysical tool for characterizing the assembly and regulation of GPCR oligomers on the cell surface.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Dimerization
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • GTP-Binding Proteins / chemistry
  • Hormones / pharmacology
  • Ligands
  • Photobleaching
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / agonists
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / chemistry*
  • Receptors, Somatostatin / immunology
  • Somatostatin / pharmacology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Hormones
  • Ligands
  • Receptors, Somatostatin
  • Somatostatin
  • somatostatin receptor 5
  • GTP-Binding Proteins