Bioorthogonal labeling enables in situ fluorescence imaging of expressed gas vesicle nanostructures

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Dec 1:2023.11.30.569486. doi: 10.1101/2023.11.30.569486.


Gas vesicles (GVs) are proteinaceous nanostructures that, along with virus-like particles, encapsulins, nano-cages, and other macromolecular assemblies are being developed for potential biomedical applications. To facilitate such development, it would be valuable to characterize these nanostructures' sub-cellular assembly and localization. However, traditional fluorescent protein fusions are not tolerated by GVs' primary constituent protein, making optical microscopy a challenge. Here, we introduce a method for fluorescently visualizing intracellular GVs using the bioorthogonal label FlAsH, which becomes fluorescent upon binding the six-amino acid tetracysteine (TC) tag. We engineered the GV subunit protein, GvpA, to display the TC tag, and showed that GVs bearing TC-tagged GvpA can be successfully assembled and fluorescently visualized in HEK 293T cells. We used fluorescence images of the tagged GVs to study GV size and distance distributions within these cells. This bioorthogonal labeling approach will enable research to provide a greater understanding of GVs and could be adapted to similar proteinaceous nanostructures.

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