The temporal and spatial control of Rho GTPase signaling pathways is a central issue in understanding the molecular mechanisms that generate complex cellular movements. The Rho protein Cdc42 induces a significant conformational change in its downstream effector, the Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome protein (WASP). On the basis of this conformational change, we have created a series of single-molecule sensors for both active Cdc42 and Cdc42 guanine nucleotide exchange factors (GEFs) that utilize fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins. In vitro, the Cdc42 sensors produce up to 3.2-fold FRET emission ratio changes upon binding active Cdc42. The GEF sensors yield up to 1.7-fold changes in FRET upon exchange of GDP for GTP. The GEF-catalyzed rate of nucleotide exchange for the GEF sensor is indistinguishable from that of wild-type Cdc42, but GAP-catalyzed nucleotide hydrolysis is slowed approximately 16-fold. In vivo, both sensors faithfully report on Cdc42 and/or Cdc42-GEF activity. These results establish the successful creation of rationally designed and genetically encoded tools that can be used to image the activity of biologically and medically important molecules in living systems.
ASJC Scopus subject areas