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Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) is a powerful tool to investigate the interaction between proteins in living cells. Fluorescence proteins, such as the green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its derivatives, are coexpressed in cells linked to proteins of interest. Time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy is a popular tool to study homo-FRET of fluorescent proteins as an indicator of dimerization, in which its signature consists of a very short component at the beginning of the anisotropy decay. In this work, we present an approach to study GFP homo-FRET via a combination of time-resolved fluorescence anisotropy, the stretched exponential decay model, and molecular dynamics simulations. We characterize a new, to our knowledge, FRET standard formed by two enhanced GFPs (eGFPs) and a flexible linker of 15 aminoacids (eGFP15eGFP) with this protocol, which is validated by using an eGFP monomer as a reference. An excellent agreement is found between the FRET efficiency calculated from the fit of the eGFP15eGFP fluorescence anisotropy decays with a stretched exponential decay model (〈E FRET exp〉 = 0.25 ± 0.05) and those calculated from the molecular dynamics simulations (〈E FRET MD〉 = 0.18 ± 0.14). The relative dipole orientation between the GFPs is best described by the orientation factors 〈κ 2〉 = 0.17 ± 0.16 and 〈|κ|〉 = 0.35 ± 0.20, contextualized within a static framework in which the linker hinders the free rotation of the fluorophores and excludes certain configurations. The combination of time- and polarization-resolved fluorescence spectroscopy with molecular dynamics simulations is shown to be a powerful tool for the study and interpretation of homo-FRET.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)254-269
Number of pages16
JournalBiophysical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jan 2021




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