Dynamic protein-protein interactions are essential in all cellular and developmental processes. Protein-fragment complementation assays allow such protein-protein interactions to be investigated in vivo. In contrast to other protein-fragment complementation assays, the split-luciferase (split-LUC) complementation approach facilitates dynamic and quantitative in vivo analysis of protein interactions, as the restoration of luciferase activity upon protein-protein interaction of investigated proteins is reversible. Here, we describe the development of a floated-leaf luciferase complementation imaging (FLuCI) assay that enables rapid and quantitative in vivo analyses of protein interactions in leaf discs floating on a luciferin infiltration solution after transient expression of split-LUC-labelled interacting proteins in Nicotiana benthamiana. We generated a set of eight Gateway-compatible split-LUC destination vectors, enabling fast, and almost fail-safe cloning of candidate proteins to the LUC termini in all possible constellations. We demonstrate their functionality by visualizing the well-established homodimerization of the 14-3-3 regulator proteins. Quantitative interaction analyses of the molybdenum co-factor biosynthesis proteins CNX6 and CNX7 show that the luciferase-based protein-fragment complementation assay allows direct real-time monitoring of absolute values of protein complex assembly. Furthermore, the split-LUC assay is established as valuable tool to investigate the dynamics of protein interactions by monitoring the disassembly of actin filaments in planta. The new Gateway-compatible split-LUC destination vector system, in combination with the FLuCI assay, provides a useful means to facilitate quantitative analyses of interactions between large numbers of proteins constituting interaction networks in plant cells.
© 2011 The Authors. The Plant Journal © 2011 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.