Detection of Rhodopsin Dimerization In Situ by PIE-FCCS, a Time-Resolved Fluorescence Spectroscopy
Rhodopsin self-associates in the plasma membrane. At low concentrations, the interactions are consistent with a monomer-dimer equilibrium (Comar et al., J Am Chem Soc 136(23):8342–8349, 2014). At high concentrations in native tissue, higher-order clusters have been observed (Fotiadis et al., Nature 421:127–128, 2003). The physiological role of rhodopsin dimerization is still being investigated, but it is clear that a quantitative assessment is essential to determining the function of rhodopsin clusters in vision. To quantify rhodopsin interactions, I will outline the theory and methodology of a specialized time-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy for measuring membrane protein-protein interactions called pulsed-interleaved excitation fluorescence cross-correlation spectroscopy (PIE-FCCS). The strength of this technique is its ability to quantify rhodopsin interactions in situ (i.e., a live cell plasma membrane). There are two reasons for restricting the scope to live cell membranes. First, the compositional heterogeneity of the plasma membrane creates a complex milieu with thousands of lipid, protein, and carbohydrate species. This makes it difficult to infer quaternary interactions from detergent solubilized samples or construct a model phospholipid bilayer that recapitulates all of the interactions present in native membranes. Second, organizational structure and dynamics is a key feature of the plasma membrane, and fixation techniques like formaldehyde cross-linking and vitrification will modulate the interactions.
PIE-FCCS is based on two-color fluorescence imaging with time-correlated single-photon counting (TCSPC) (Becker et al., Rev Sci Instrum 70:1835–1841, 1999). By time-tagging every detected photon, the data can be analyzed as a fluorescence intensity distribution, fluorescence lifetime histogram, or fluorescence (cross-)correlation spectra (FCS/FCCS) (Becker, Advanced time-correlated single-photon counting techniques, Springer, Berlin, 2005). These analysis tools can then be used to quantify protein concentration, mobility, clustering, and Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). In this paper I will focus on PIE-FCCS, which interleaves two wavelength excitation events in time so that the effects of spectral cross-talk and FRET can be isolated. In this way it is possible to characterize monomer-dimer-oligomer equilibria with high accuracy (Müller et al., Biophys J 89:3508–3522, 2005). Currently, PIE-FCCS requires a customized equipment configuration that will be described below. There is an excellent protocol that outlines traditional FCCS on a commercially available instrument (Bacia and Schwille, Nat Protoc 2:2842–2856, 2007). The PIE-FCCS approach is a relatively recent advance in FCCS that has been used in live cell assays to quantify lipid-anchored protein clustering (Triffo et al., J Am Chem Soc 134:10833–10842, 2012), epidermal growth factor receptor dimerization (Endres et al., Cell 152:543–556, 2013), and recently the dimerization of opsin (Comar et al., J Am Chem Soc 136(23):8342–8349, 2014). This paper will outline the theory and instrumentation requirements for PIE-FCCS, as well as the data collection and analysis process.
Key wordsRhodopsin dimerization Membrane protein dynamics Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy Time-correlated single-photon counting Pulsed-interleaved excitation
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