Inserting “OFF-to-ON” BODIPY Tags into Cytokines: A Fluorogenic Interleukin IL-33 for Real-Time Imaging of Immune Cells

Abigail e. Reese, Fabio De moliner, Lorena Mendive-Tapia, Sam Benson, Erkin Kuru, Thomas Bridge, Josh Richards, Jonathan Rittichier, Takanori Kitamura, Amit Sachdeva, Henry j. Mcsorley, Marc Vendrell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

The essential functions that cytokine/immune cell interactions play in tissue homeostasis and during disease have prompted the molecular design of targeted fluorophores to monitor their activity in real time. Whereas activatable probes for imaging immune-related enzymes are common, many immunological functions are mediated by binding events between cytokines and their cognate receptors that are hard to monitor by live-cell imaging. A prime example is interleukin-33 (IL-33), a key cytokine in innate and adaptive immunity, whose interaction with the ST2 cell-surface receptor results in downstream signaling and activation of NF-κB and AP-1 pathways. In the present work, we have designed a chemical platform to site-specifically introduce OFF-to-ON BODIPY fluorophores into full cytokine proteins and generate the first native-like fluorescent analogues of IL-33. Among different incorporation strategies, chemical aminoacylation followed by bioorthogonal derivatization led to the best labeling results.
Importantly, the BODIPY-labeled IL-33 derivatives -unlike IL-33-GFP constructs- exhibited ST2-specific binding and downstream bioactivity profiles comparable to those of the wild-type interleukin. Real-time fluorescence microscopy assays under no wash conditions confirmed the internalization of IL-33 through ST2 receptors and its intracellular trafficking through the endosomal pathway. We envision that the modularity and versatility of our BODIPY labeling platform will facilitate the synthesis of minimally tagged fluorogenic cytokines as the next generation of imaging reagents for real-time visualization of signaling events in live immune cells.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)143-154
JournalACS Central Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2023


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