Fluorolabeling of the PPTase-Related Chemical Tags: Comparative Study of Different Membrane Receptors and Different Fluorophores in the Labeling Reactions

Front Mol Biosci. 2020 Aug 7;7:195. doi: 10.3389/fmolb.2020.00195. eCollection 2020.


The set-up of an advanced imaging experiment requires a careful selection of suitable labeling strategies and fluorophores for the tagging of the molecules of interest. Here we provide an experimental workflow to allow evaluation of fluorolabeling performance of the chemical tags target of phosphopantetheinyl transferase enzymes (PPTases), once inserted in the sequence of different proteins of interest. First, S6 peptide tag was fused to three different single-pass transmembrane proteins (the tyrosine receptor kinases TrkA and VEGFR2 and the tumor necrosis factor receptor p75NTR), providing evidence that all of them can be conveniently albeit differently labeled. Moreover, we chose the S6-tagged TrkA construct to test eight different organic fluorophores for the PPTase labeling of membrane receptors in living cells. We systematically compared their non-specific internalization when added to a S6-tag negative cell culture, the percentage of S6-TrkA expressing cells effectively labeled and the relative mean fluorescence intensity, their photostability upon conjugation, and ratio of specific (cellular) versus background (glass-adhered) signal. This allowed to identify which fluorophores are actually recommended for these labeling reactions. Finally, we compared the PPTase labeling of a purified, YBBR-tagged Nerve Growth Factor with two differently charged organic dyes. We detected some batch-to-batch variability in the labeling yield, regardless of the fluorophore used. However, upon purification of the fluorescent species and incubation with living primary DRG neurons, no significant difference could be appreciated in both internalization and axonal transport of the labeled neurotrophins.

Keywords: Fluorescent Nerve Growth Factor; PPTase labeling; Single molecule labeling; chemical tag; fluorophore; surface receptor.