Genetically encoded far-red fluorescent sensors for caspase-3 activity

Olga A. Zlobovskaya, Tatiana F. Sergeeva, Marina V. Shirmanova, Varvara V. Dudenkova, George V. Sharonov, Elena V. Zagaynova, Konstantin A. Lukyanov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)


Caspase-3 is a key effector caspase that is activated in both extrinsic and intrinsic pathways of apopto­sis. Available fluorescent sensors for caspase-3 activity operate in relatively short wavelength regions and are nonoptimal for multiparameter microscopy and whole-body imaging. In the present work, we devel­oped new genetically encoded sensors for caspase-3 activity possessing the most red-shifted spectra to date. These consist of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) pairs in which a far-red fluorescent protein (mKate2 or eqFP650) is connected to the infrared fluorescent protein iRFP through a linker containing the DEVD caspase-3 cleavage site. During staurosporine-induced apoptosis of mammalian cells (HeLa and CT26), both mKate2-DEVD-iRFP and eqFP650-DEVD-iRFP sensors showed a robust response (1.6-fold increase of the donor fluorescence intensity). However, eqFP650-DEVD-iRFP displayed aggregation in some cells. For stably transfected CT26 mKate2-DEVD-iRFP cells, fluorescence lifetime imaging (FLIM) enabled us to detect caspase-3 activation due to the increase of mKate2 donor fluorescence lifetime from 1.45 to 2.05 ns. We took advantage of the strongly red-shifted spectrum of mKate2-DEVD-iRFP to perform simultaneous imaging of EGFP-Bax translocation during apoptosis. We conclude that mKate2-DEVD-iRFP is well-suited for multiparameter imaging and also potentially beneficial for in vivo imaging in animal tissues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Apoptosis
  • Bacteriophytochrome-based infrared fluorescent protein
  • Caspase-3
  • FRET
  • Genetically encoded fluorescent sensor
  • Green fluorescent protein (GFP)


Dive into the research topics of 'Genetically encoded far-red fluorescent sensors for caspase-3 activity'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this