Fluorescence/bioluminescence resonance energy transfer techniques to study G-protein-coupled receptor activation and signaling

Pharmacol Rev. 2012 Apr;64(2):299-336. doi: 10.1124/pr.110.004309. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


Fluorescence and bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (FRET and BRET) techniques allow the sensitive monitoring of distances between two labels at the nanometer scale. Depending on the placement of the labels, this permits the analysis of conformational changes within a single protein (for example of a receptor) or the monitoring of protein-protein interactions (for example, between receptors and G-protein subunits). Over the past decade, numerous such techniques have been developed to monitor the activation and signaling of G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) in both the purified, reconstituted state and in intact cells. These techniques span the entire spectrum from ligand binding to the receptors down to intracellular second messengers. They allow the determination and the visualization of signaling processes with high temporal and spatial resolution. With these techniques, it has been demonstrated that GPCR signals may show spatial and temporal patterning. In particular, evidence has been provided for spatial compartmentalization of GPCRs and their signals in intact cells and for distinct physiological consequences of such spatial patterning. We review here the FRET and BRET technologies that have been developed for G-protein-coupled receptors and their signaling proteins (G-proteins, effectors) and the concepts that result from such experiments.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bioluminescence Resonance Energy Transfer Techniques / methods*
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction


  • Ligands
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled