Understanding the FRET signatures of interacting membrane proteins

Christopher King, Valerica Raicu, Kalina Hristova

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


FRET is an indispensable experimental tool for studying membrane proteins. Currently, two models are available for researchers to determine the oligomerization state of membrane proteins in a static quenching FRET experiment: the model of Veatch and Stryer, derived in 1977, and the kinetic theory- based model for intraoligomeric FRET, derived in 2007. Because of confinement in two dimensions, a substantial amount of FRET is generated by energy transfer between fluorophores located in separate oligomers in the two-dimensional bilayer. This interoligomeric FRET (also known as stochastic, bystander, or proximity FRET) is not accounted for in either model. Here, we use the kinetic theory formalism to describe the dependence of the FRET efficiency measured in an experiment (i.e. the "total apparentFRETefficiency") on the interoligomeric FRET due to random proximity within the bilayer and the intraoligomeric FRET resulting from protein-protein interactions. We find that data analysis with both models without consideration of the proximity FRET leads to incorrect conclusions about the oligomeric state of the protein. We show that knowledge of the total surface densities of fluorophore-labeled membrane proteins is essential for correctly interpreting the measured total apparent FRET efficiency. We also find that bulk, two-color, static quenching FRET experiments are best suited for the study of monomeric, dimerizing, or dimeric proteins but have limitations in discerning the order of larger oligomers. The theory and methodology described in this work will allow researchers to extract meaningful parameters from static quenching FRET measurements in biological membranes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5291-5310
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - Mar 31 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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