Studying a reversibly switchable fluorescent protein by time-resolved crystallography using the X-ray free electron lasers

Abstract : Reversibly switchable fluorescent proteins (RSFPs) are able to reversibly toggle between a fluorescent on-state and a non-fluorescent off-state under visible light irradiation. This property makes them a suitable marker used in super-resolution microscopy (or nanoscopy). The photo-switching mechanism involves isomerisation of the chromophore and a change of its protonation state. This mechanism has been well studied but remains poorly understood. The structural nature and the sequential order of atomistic events are still under debate. Some of them take place on the ultra-fast time scale and make structural investigation by X-ray crystallography impossible using current synchrotron radiation sources whose temporal resolution they offer is limited. X-ray free electron lasers (XFELs) are a new kind of X-ray source producing femtosecond pulses that allow structural investigation of ultra-fast intermediates during photoswitching. They are also so bright that crystallographic data collection from micro- and nanometer-sized crystals became possible. The bright and short XFEL pulses required a new methodology to be developed, the so-called serial crystallography methodology. This method is now being adapted to synchrotron radiation facilities.Here is presented a time-resolved crystallography study of the reversibly switchable green fluorescent protein 2 (rsEGFP2). A microcrystallization protocol is described allowing the preparation of suitable samples in large amounts for time-resolved serial crystallography experiments. A photoswitching mechanism of rsEGFP2 is proposed based on crystallographic results obtained from data collected at the two XFEL facilities currently fully operational, i.e. the LCLS in the USA and SACLA in Japan. In particular, the structure of two photoswitching intermediates have been determined, one featuring a twisted chromophore in the excited state and the other displaying a protonated cis isomer of the chromophore in the ground state. The structural characterization of rsEGFP2 variants by traditional oscillation crystallography combined with the serendipitous discovery of an alternate chromophore conformation in the off-state during an XFEL experiment provided unique insight into the photophysical behavior of the protein.
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Joyce Woodhouse. Studying a reversibly switchable fluorescent protein by time-resolved crystallography using the X-ray free electron lasers. Biological Physics [physics.bio-ph]. Université Grenoble Alpes, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018GREAY026⟩. ⟨tel-02305244⟩

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