A fluorogenic probe for SNAP-tagged plasma membrane proteins based on the solvatochromic molecule Nile Red
A fluorogenic probe for plasma membrane proteins based on the dye Nile Red and SNAP-tag is introduced. It takes advantage of Nile Red, a solvatochromic molecule highly fluorescent in an apolar environment, such as cellular membranes, but almost dark in a polar aqueous environment. The probe possesses a tuned affinity for membranes allowing its Nile Red moiety to insert into the lipid bilayer of the plasma membrane, becoming fluorescent, only after its conjugation to a SNAP-tagged plasma membrane protein. The fluorogenic character of the probe was demonstrated for different SNAP-tag fusion proteins, including the human insulin receptor. This work introduces a new approach for generating a powerful turn-on probe for "no-wash" labeling of plasma membrane proteins with numerous applications in bioimaging.