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Methods (San Diego, Calif.)

Design and construction of conformational biosensors to monitor ion channel activation: A prototype FlAsH/BRET-approach to Kir3 channels.


PMID 26210401

Abstract

Ion channels play a vital role in numerous physiological functions and drugs that target them are actively pursued for development of novel therapeutic agents. Here we report a means for monitoring in real time the conformational changes undergone by channel proteins upon exposure to pharmacological stimuli. The approach relies on tracking structural rearrangements by monitoring changes in bioluminescence energy transfer (BRET). To provide proof of principle we have worked with Kir3 neuronal channels producing 10 different constructs which were combined into 17 donor-acceptor BRET pairs. Among these combinations, pairs bearing the donor Nano-Luc (NLuc) at the C-terminal end of Kir3.2 subunits and the FlAsH acceptor at the N-terminal end (NT) or the interfacial helix (N70) of Kir3.1 subunits were identified as potential tools. These pairs displayed significant changes in energy transfer upon activation with direct channel ligands or via stimulation of G protein-coupled receptors. Conformational changes associated with channel activation followed similar kinetics as channel currents. Dose response curves generated by different agonists in FlAsH-BRET assays displayed similar rank order of potency as those obtained with conventional BRET readouts of G protein activation and ion flux assays. Conformational biosensors as the ones reported herein should prove a valuable complement to other methodologies currently used in channel drug discovery.