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Keywords:

  • genetically encoded sensors;
  • fluorescent proteins;
  • metabolites;
  • signaling molecules;
  • real-time imaging

Summary

Quantitative imaging in live cells is a powerful method for monitoring the dynamics of biomolecules at an excellent spatio-temporal resolution. Such an approach, initially limited to a small number of substrates for which specific dyes were available, has become possible for a large number of biomolecules due to the development of genetically encoded, protein-based sensors. These sensors, which can be introduced into live cells through a transgenic approach, offer the benefits of quantitative imaging, with an extra advantage of non-invasiveness. In the past decade there has been a drastic expansion in the number of biomolecules for which genetically encoded sensors are available, and the functional properties of existing sensors are being improved at a dramatic pace. A number of technical improvements have now made the application of genetically encoded sensors in plants rather straightforward, and some of the sensors such as calcium indicator proteins have become standard analytical tools in many plant laboratories. The use of a handful of probes has already revealed an amazing specificity of cellular biomolecule dynamics in plants, which leads us to believe that there are many more discoveries to be made using genetically encoded sensors. In this short review, we will summarize the progress made in the past 15 years in the development in genetically encoded sensors, and highlight significant discoveries made in plant biology.