Life Science

Detection of Signaling Effector-Complexes Downstream of BMP4 Using in situ PLA, a Proximity Ligation Assay

BMPs are responsible for a wide range of developmental and biological effects. BMP receptors activate (phosphorylate) the Smad1/5/8 effectors, which then, form a complex with Smad4 and translocate to the nucleus where they function as transcription factors to initiate BMP specific downstream effects1. Traditional immuno-fluorescence techniques with antibodies against phospho-Smad peptides exhibit low sensitivity, high background and offer gross quantification as they rely on intensity of the antibody signal particularly if this is photosensitive fluorescent. In addition, phospho-Smads may not all be in complex with Smad4 and engaged in active transcription.

In situ PLA is a technology capable of detecting protein interactions with high specificity and sensitivity2-4. This new technology couples antibody recognition with the amplification of DNA surrogate of the protein. It generates a localized, discrete signal in a form of spots revealing the exact position of the recognition event. The number of signals can be counted and compared providing a measurement. We applied in situ PLA, using the Duolink kit, with a combination of antibodies that allows the detection of the BMP signaling effectors phospho-Smad1/5/8 and Smad4 only when these are in proximity i.e. in a complex, which occurs only with signaling activation. This allowed for the first time, the visualization and measurement of endogenous BMP signaling with high specificity and sensitivity in a time course experiment under BMP4 stimulation.

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