Fluorescent Cargo Proteins in Peptidergic Endocrine Cells

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Abstract

Fluorescent fusion proteins are an important tool for the study of vesicle trafficking and exocytosis, especially when combined with newer types of microscopy. We previously reported that the design of a vesicle-targeted fluorescent fusion construct strongly influences the kinetics of fluorescence change at exocytosis. In the present study we demonstrate that the cell in which a construct is expressed also affects the kinetics of fluorescence change at exocytosis. We fused enhanced green fluorescent protein to the carboxy terminus of the vesicular cargo protein rodent islet amyloid polypeptide. The two proteins were separated by a “linker” sequence of 18 amino acids. We then compared kinetics of fluorescence change at exocytosis for this fluorescent cargo protein expressed in three different types of peptidergic endocrine cell: pancreatic alpha cell, pancreatic beta cell, and adrenal chromaffin cell. In resting cells of all three types, fluorescent spots of similar size and membrane-proximal density appeared near the plasma membrane as expected if the probe is stored in large dense-core secretory vesicles. Upon stimulation, the fluorescent spots displayed sudden changes in fluorescence intensity that were consistent with exocytosis. In beta and alpha cells the fluorescent spots consistently brightened and persisted, whereas in chromaffin cells the fluorescent spots always dispersed rapidly. Thus, for fluorescent cargo proteins in peptidergic endocrine cells, cell type influences the kinetics of fluorescence change at exocytosis. Together with our previous findings, this observation strongly highlights the fact that the behavior of vesicle-targeted fluorescent cargo may be unrelated to that of native cargo, and it emphasizes the need for caution in interpreting fluorescence kinetics in terms of an exocytosis mechanism.

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