Bright split red fluorescent proteins with enhanced complementation efficiency for the tagging of endogenous proteins and visualization of synapses
Self-associating split fluorescent proteins (FPs) have been widely used for labeling proteins, scaffolding protein assembly and detecting cell-cell contacts. Newly developed self-associating split FPs, however, have suffered from suboptimal fluorescence signal. Here, by investigating the complementation process, we have demonstrated two approaches to improve split FPs: assistance through SpyTag/SpyCatcher interaction and directed evolution. The latter has yielded two split sfCherry3 variants with substantially enhanced overall brightness, facilitating the tagging of endogenous proteins by gene editing. Based on sfCherry3, we have further developed a new red-colored trans-synaptic marker called Neuroligin-1 sfCherry3 Linker Across Synaptic Partners (NLG-1 CLASP) for multiplexed visualization of neuronal synapses in living animals, demonstrating its broad applications.
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