Fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between an adequate pair of fluorophores is an indication of closer proximity than colocalization and is used by biologists to study fluorescently modified protein interactions inside cells. We present a method for visualization of FRET images acquired by confocal sensitized emission, involving excitation of the donor fluorophore and detection of the energy transfer as an emission from the acceptor fluorophore into the FRET channel. Authentic FRET signal measurements require the correction from the FRET channel of the undesired bleed-through signals (BT) resulting from both the leak-through of the donor emission and the direct acceptor emission. Our method reduces the interference of the user to a minimum by analyzing the entire image, pixel by pixel. It proposes imaging treatments and the display of control images to validate the BT calculation and the image corrections. It displays FRET images as a function of the colocalization of the two fluorescent partners. Finally, it proposes an alternative to normalization of the FRET intensities to compare FRET signal variations between samples. This method called "FRET and Colocalization Analyzer" has been implemented in a Plug-in of the freely available ImageJ software. It is particularly adapted when transient expression of the fluorescent proteins is used thereby giving very variable expression levels or when the colocalization of the two partners is varying in proportion, in amount, and in size, as a function of time. The method and program are validated using the analysis of the spatio-temporal interactions between a G-protein coupled receptor, the tachykinin NK2 receptor, and the beta-arrestin 2 as an example.
Copyright (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.