Cell-based optimization and characterization of genetically encoded location-based biosensors for Cdc42 or Rac activity

J Cell Sci. 2023 May 15;136(10):jcs260802. doi: 10.1242/jcs.260802. Epub 2023 May 25.


Rac (herein referring to the Rac family) and Cdc42 are Rho GTPases that regulate the formation of lamellipoda and filopodia, and are therefore crucial in processes such as cell migration. Relocation-based biosensors for Rac and Cdc42 have not been characterized well in terms of their specificity or affinity. In this study, we identify relocation sensor candidates for both Rac and Cdc42. We compared their (1) ability to bind the constitutively active Rho GTPases, (2) specificity for Rac and Cdc42, and (3) relocation efficiency in cell-based assays. Subsequently, the relocation efficiency was improved by a multi-domain approach. For Rac1, we found a sensor candidate with low relocation efficiency. For Cdc42, we found several sensors with sufficient relocation efficiency and specificity. These optimized sensors enable the wider application of Rho GTPase relocation sensors, which was showcased by the detection of local endogenous Cdc42 activity at assembling invadopodia. Moreover, we tested several fluorescent proteins and HaloTag for their influence on the recruitment efficiency of the Rho location sensor, to find optimal conditions for a multiplexing experiment. This characterization and optimization of relocation sensors will broaden their application and acceptance.

Keywords: Affinity; Biosensor; Cdc42; Fluorescent protein; Multiplex imaging; Rho GTPase.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Cell Movement
  • Podosomes*
  • Pseudopodia
  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins*


  • rho GTP-Binding Proteins