Single-Molecule Studies on a FRET Biosensor: Lessons From a Comparison of Fluorescent Protein Equipped Versus Dye-Labeled Species

Molecules. 2018 Nov 27;23(12):3105. doi: 10.3390/molecules23123105.


Bacterial periplasmic binding proteins (PBPs) undergo a pronounced ligand-induced conformational change which can be employed to monitor ligand concentrations. The most common strategy to take advantage of this conformational change for a biosensor design is to use a Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) signal. This can be achieved by attaching either two fluorescent proteins (FPs) or two organic fluorescent dyes of different colors to the PBPs in order to obtain an optical readout signal which is closely related to the ligand concentration. In this study we compare a FP-equipped and a dye-labeled version of the glucose/galactose binding protein MglB at the single-molecule level. The comparison demonstrates that changes in the FRET signal upon glucose binding are more pronounced for the FP-equipped sensor construct as compared to the dye-labeled analog. Moreover, the FP-equipped sensor showed a strong increase of the FRET signal under crowding conditions whereas the dye-labeled sensor was not influenced by crowding. The choice of a labeling scheme should therefore be made depending on the application of a FRET-based sensor.

Keywords: Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET); biosensor; conformational change; fluorescent protein (FP); glucose sensor; hinge motion; ligand binding; single molecule studies.

MeSH terms

  • Biosensing Techniques / methods*
  • Escherichia coli Proteins / chemistry*
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer / methods*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Glucose / analysis*
  • Glucose / chemistry
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins / chemistry*


  • Escherichia coli Proteins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Monosaccharide Transport Proteins
  • mglB protein, E coli
  • Glucose