Heterogeneity of second messenger levels in living cells.
Zaccolo M., Filippin L., Magalhães P., Pozzan T.
Over the last years we have utilised chimeras from aequorin and green fluorescent protein (GFP) to monitor the dynamics of second messenger levels in living cells. In this contribution we address two problems, i.e. the complexity of Ca2+ handling by mitochondria and the localization of cAMP signalling. As to the first, we here demonstrate that physiological increases in mitochondrial Ca2+, monitored with selectively localized recombinant aequorin, concern a sub-population of organelles that is stably and selectively associated with the endoplasmic reticulum. As to cAMP, we describe the use of a novel probe to monitor its changes in living cells, that takes advantage of the phenomenon of fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) between suitable GFPs linked to the regulatory and catalytic subunits of protein kinase A (PKA). When cAMP is low the two fluorophores are in close proximity and generate FRET while increasing levels of cAMP determine progressive reduction of FRET as the two subunits (linked to the GFPs) diffuse apart. We also demonstrate that by using such cAMP sensor, localized increase of this second messenger can be observed upon selective stimulation of plasma membrane receptors.