Visualizing the Conformational Dynamics of Membrane Receptors Using Single-Molecule FRET

Chiranjib Banerjee, Brandon Wey Hung Liauw, Reza Vafabakhsh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The ability of cells to respond to external signals is essential for cellular development, growth, and survival. To respond to a signal from the environment, a cell must be able to recognize and process it. This task mainly relies on the function of membrane receptors, whose role is to convert signals into the biochemical language of the cell. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) constitute the largest family of membrane receptor proteins in humans. Among GPCRs, metabotropic glutamate receptors (mGluRs) are a unique subclass that function as obligate dimers and possess a large extracellular domain that contains the ligand-binding site. Recent advances in structural studies of mGluRs have improved the understanding of their activation process. However, the propagation of large-scale conformational changes through mGluRs during activation and modulation is poorly understood. Single-molecule fluorescence resonance energy transfer (smFRET) is a powerful technique to visualize and quantify the structural dynamics of biomolecules at the single-protein level. To visualize the dynamic process of mGluR2 activation, fluorescent conformational sensors based on unnatural amino acid (UAA) incorporation were developed that allowed site-specific protein labeling without perturbation of the native structure of receptors. The protocol described here explains how to perform these experiments, including the novel UAA labeling approach, sample preparation, and smFRET data acquisition and analysis. These strategies are generalizable and can be extended to investigate the conformational dynamics of a variety of membrane proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere64254
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number186
StatePublished - Aug 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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