Quantitative single-residue bioorthogonal labeling of G protein-coupled receptors in live cells


  • R. Serfling
  • L. Seidel
  • A. Bock
  • M.J. Lohse
  • P. Annibale
  • I. Coin


  • ACS Chemical Biology


  • ACS Chem Biol 14 (6): 1141-1149


  • High-end microscopy studies of G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) require installing onto the receptors bright and photostable dyes. Labeling must occur in quantitative yields, to allow stoichiometric data analysis, and in a minimally invasive fashion, to avoid perturbing GPCR function. We demonstrate here that the genetic incorporation of trans-cyclooct-2-ene lysine (TCO*) allows achieving quantitative single-residue labeling of the extracellular loops of the β(2)-adrenergic and the muscarinic M(2) class A GPCRs, as well as of the corticotropin releasing factor class B GPCR. Labeling occurs within a few minutes by reaction with dye-tetrazine conjugates on the surface of live cells and preserves the functionality of the receptors. To precisely quantify the labeling yields, we devise a method based on fluorescence fluctuation microscopy that extracts the number of labeling sites at the single-cell level. Further, we show that single-residue labeling is better suited for studies of GPCR diffusion than fluorescent-protein tags, since the latter can affect the mobility of the receptor. Finally, by performing dual-color competitive labeling on a single TCO* site, we devise a method to estimate the oligomerization state of a GPCR without the need for a biological monomeric reference, which facilitates the application of fluorescence methods to oligomerization studies. As TCO* and the dye-tetrazines used in this study are commercially available and the described microscopy techniques can be performed on a commercial microscope, we expect our approach to be widely applicable to fluorescence microscopy studies of membrane proteins in general.