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Fluorescent protein (FP) insertions have often been used to localize primary structure elements in mid-resolution 3D cryo electron microscopic (EM) maps of large protein complexes. However, little is known as to the precise spatial relationship between the location of the fused FP and its insertion site within a larger protein. To gain insights into these structural considerations, Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) measurements were used to localize green fluorescent protein (GFP) insertions within the ryanodine receptor type 1 (RyR1), a large intracellular Ca2+ release channel that plays a key role in skeletal muscle excitation contraction coupling. A series of full-length His-tagged GFP-RyR1 fusion constructs were created, expressed in human embryonic kidney (HEK)-293T cells and then complexed with Cy3NTA, a His-tag specific FRET acceptor. FRET efficiency values measured from each GFP donor to Cy3NTA bound to each His tag acceptor site were converted into intermolecular distances and the positions of each inserted GFP were then triangulated relative to a previously published X-ray crystal structure of a 559 amino acid RyR1 fragment. We observed that the chromophoric centers of fluorescent proteins inserted into RyR1 can be located as far as 45 Å from their insertion sites and that the fused proteins can also be located in internal cavities within RyR1. These findings should prove useful in interpreting structural results obtained in cryo EM maps using fusions of small fluorescent proteins. More accurate point-to-point distance information may be obtained using complementary orthogonal labeling systems that rely on fluorescent probes that bind directly to amino acid side chains.
© 2012 Raina et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.
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VCU Physiology and Biophysics Publications