FRET Imaging of Diatoms Expressing a Biosilica-Localized Ribose Sensor
Future materials are envisioned to include bio-assembled, hybrid, three-dimensional nanosystems that incorporate functional proteins. Diatoms are amenable to genetic modification for localization of recombinant proteins in the biosilica cell wall. However, the full range of protein functionalities that can be accommodated by the modified porous biosilica has yet to be described. Our objective was to functionalize diatom biosilica with a reagent-less sensor dependent on ligand-binding and conformational change to drive FRET-based signaling capabilities. A fusion protein designed to confer such properties included a bacterial periplasmic ribose binding protein (R) flanked by CyPet (C) and YPet (Y), cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins that act as a FRET pair. The structure and function of the CRY recombinant chimeric protein was confirmed by expression in E. coli prior to transformation of the diatom Thalassiosira pseudonana. Mass spectrometry of the recombinant CRY showed 97% identity with the deduced amino acid sequence. CRY with and without an N-terminal Sil3 tag for biosilica localization exhibited characteristic ribose-dependent changes in FRET, with similar dissociation constants of 123.3 µM and 142.8 µM, respectively. The addition of the Sil3 tag did not alter the affinity of CRY for the ribose substrate. Subsequent transformation of T. pseudonana with a vector encoding Sil3-CRY resulted in fluorescence localization in the biosilica and changes in FRET in both living cells and isolated frustules in response to ribose. This work demonstrated that the nano-architecture of the genetically modified biosilica cell wall was able to support the functionality of the relatively complex Sil3-CyPet-RBP-YPet fusion protein with its requirement for ligand-binding and conformational change for FRET-signal generation.