Protein Kinase A (PKA) exists as a tetrameric holoenzyme which activates with increase of cAMP and plays an important role in many physiological processes including cardiac physiology, neuronal development, and adipocyte function. Although this kinase has been the subject of numerous biosensor designs, a single-fluorophore reporter that performs comparably to Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) has not yet been reported. Here, we have used basic observations of electrostatic interactions in PKA substrate recognition mechanism and nucleus localization sequence motif to design a phosphorylation switch that shuttles between the cytosol and the nucleus, a strategy that should be generalizable to all basophilic kinases. The resulting reporter yielded comparable kinetics and dynamic range to the PKA FRET reporter, AKAR3EV. We also performed basic characterization and demonstrated its potential use in monitoring multiple signaling molecules inside cells using basic fluorescence microscopy. Due to the single-fluorophore nature of this reporter, we envision that this could find broad applications in studies involving single cell analysis of PKA activity.
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