Single-molecule imaging provides a powerful way to study biochemical processes in live cells, yet it remains challenging to track single molecules while simultaneously detecting their interactions. Here we describe a novel property of rhodamine dyes, proximity-assisted photoactivation (PAPA), in which one fluorophore (the 'sender') can reactivate a second fluorophore (the 'receiver') from a dark state. PAPA requires proximity between the two fluorophores, yet it operates at a longer average intermolecular distance than Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). We show that PAPA can be used in live cells both to detect protein-protein interactions and to highlight a sub-population of labeled protein complexes in which two different labels are in proximity. In proof-of-concept experiments, PAPA detected the expected correlation between androgen receptor self-association and chromatin binding at the single-cell level. These results establish a new way in which a photophysical property of fluorophores can be harnessed to study molecular interactions in single-molecule imaging of live cells.
Source data for Fig. 2-5 are included in an accompanying zip file.
- Robert Tjian
- Thomas George Wade Graham
- John Joseph Ferrie III
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Jie Xiao, Johns Hopkins University, United States
© 2022, Graham et al.
This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.
Although most species have two sexes, multisexual (or multi-mating type) species are also widespread. However, it is unclear how mating-type recognition is achieved at the molecular level in multisexual species. The unicellular ciliate Tetrahymena thermophila has seven mating types, which are determined by the MTA and MTB proteins. In this study, we found that both proteins are essential for cells to send or receive complete mating-type information, and transmission of the mating-type signal requires both proteins to be expressed in the same cell. We found that MTA and MTB form a mating-type recognition complex that localizes to the plasma membrane, but not to the cilia. Stimulation experiments showed that the mating-type-specific regions of MTA and MTB mediate both self- and non-self-recognition, indicating that T. thermophila uses a dual approach to achieve mating-type recognition. Our results suggest that MTA and MTB form an elaborate multifunctional protein complex that can identify cells of both self and non-self mating types in order to inhibit or activate mating, respectively.