FluoSTEPs: Fluorescent biosensors for monitoring compartmentalized signaling within endogenous microdomains

Sci Adv. 2021 May 21;7(21):eabe4091. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abe4091. Print 2021 May.


Growing evidence suggests that many essential intracellular signaling events are compartmentalized within kinetically distinct microdomains in cells. Genetically encoded fluorescent biosensors are powerful tools to dissect compartmentalized signaling, but current approaches to probe these microdomains typically rely on biosensor fusion and overexpression of critical regulatory elements. Here, we present a novel class of biosensors named FluoSTEPs (fluorescent sensors targeted to endogenous proteins) that combine self-complementing split green fluorescent protein, CRISPR-mediated knock-in, and fluorescence resonance energy transfer biosensor technology to probe compartmentalized signaling dynamics in situ. We designed FluoSTEPs for simultaneously highlighting endogenous microdomains and reporting domain-specific, real-time signaling events including kinase activities, guanosine triphosphatase activation, and second messenger dynamics in live cells. A FluoSTEP for 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) revealed distinct cAMP dynamics within clathrin microdomains in response to stimulation of G protein-coupled receptors, showcasing the utility of FluoSTEPs in probing spatiotemporal regulation within endogenous signaling architectures.