Optical probes based on G protein-coupled receptors - added work or added value?

Br J Pharmacol. 2016 Jan;173(2):255-66. doi: 10.1111/bph.13382. Epub 2015 Dec 19.


In 2003, the first report was published that presented proof of principle for a novel class of FRET biosensors for use in living cells. This novel sensor class was built on the base of GPCRs, which represent an integral transmembrane receptor family passing the membrane seven times and are thus also called the 7TM receptor family. As an estimated number of 30% of all marketed drugs exert their effects by modulating GPCR function, these initial reports promised the gain of novel insights into receptor function. Such FRET sensors have slowly, but progressively, made their way into the standard toolbox for GPCR research as several groups are now reporting on the generation and use of these sensors. By now, FRET sensors have been reported for 18 different GPCRs, and more are expected to be added. These particular receptor sensors have been used to investigate receptor dynamics in living cells to evaluate ligand binding and ligand efficacy in real time, to study voltage and mechanosensitivity of GPCRs or to study the influence of receptor polymorphisms on receptor function in real-time. In this review we will describe the different design principles of these GPCR-based sensors and will summarize their current biological applications in living cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / analysis
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / analysis
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled