Mechanically Modulating the Photophysical Properties of Fluorescent Protein Biocomposites for Ratio- and Intensiometric Sensors


  • We are grateful to the ARO grant numbers W911NF-07-1-0409 and W911NF-11-1-0456 for their generous financial support. J.S.B. acknowledges support from the Welch Foundation (F-1155) and NSF (CHE-1012622). J.N.B. is grateful to the NSF for a predoctoral fellowship. We also thank Prof. Eric Gouaux and Prof. Arthur Glasfeld for generously providing plasmid pNGFP-BC, and Prof. Andrew Ellington for providing the EYFP-pET21a expression plasmid.


Mechanically sensitive biocomposites comprised of fluorescent proteins report stress through distinct pathways. Whereas a composite containing an enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (eYFP) exhibited hypsochromic shifts in its fluorescence emission maxima following compression, a composite containing a modified green fluorescent protein (GFPuv) exhibited fluorescence quenching under the action of mechanical force. These ratio- and intensiometric sensors demonstrate that insights garnered from disparate fields (that is, polymer mechanochemistry and biophysics) can be harnessed to guide the rational design of new classes of biomechanophore-containing materials.