Photoactivatable and photoconvertible fluorescent probes for protein labeling

ACS Chem Biol. 2010 May 21;5(5):507-16. doi: 10.1021/cb1000229.


Photosensitive probes are powerful tools to study cellular processes with high temporal and spatial resolution. However, most synthetic fluorophores suited for biomolecular imaging have not been converted yet to appropriate photosensitive analogues. Here we describe a generally applicable strategy for the generation of photoactivatable and photoconvertible fluorescent probes that can be selectively coupled to SNAP-tag fusion proteins in living cells. Photoactivatable versions of fluorescein and Cy3 as well as a photoconvertible Cy5-Cy3 probe were prepared and coupled to selected proteins on the cell surface, in the cytosol, and in the nucleus of cells. In proof-of-principle experiments, the photoactivatable Cy3 probe was used to characterize the mobility of a lipid-anchored cell surface protein and of a G protein coupled receptor (GPCR). This work establishes a generally applicable strategy for the generation of a large variety of different photosensitive fluorophores with tailor-made properties for biomolecular imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Carbocyanines / chemical synthesis
  • Carbocyanines / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Fluorescein / chemical synthesis
  • Fluorescein / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes* / chemical synthesis
  • Fluorescent Dyes* / chemistry
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Photochemistry*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins* / chemistry
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins* / metabolism
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence / methods*


  • Carbocyanines
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • cyanine dye 3
  • cyanine dye 5
  • Fluorescein