Over the last decades a broad collection of sophisticated fluorescent protein-based probes was engineered with the aim to specifically monitor nitric oxide (NO), one of the most important signaling molecules in biology. Here we report and discuss the characteristics and fields of applications of currently available genetically encoded fluorescent sensors for the detection of NO and its metabolites in different cell types.Long abstract:
Because of its radical nature and short half-life, real-time imaging of NO on the level of single cells is challenging. Herein we review state-of-the-art genetically encoded fluorescent sensors for NO and its byproducts such as peroxynitrite, nitrite and nitrate. Such probes enable the real-time visualization of NO signals directly or indirectly on the level of single cells and cellular organelles and, hence, extend our understanding of the spatiotemporal dynamics of NO formation, diffusion and degradation. Here, we discuss the significance of NO detection in individual cells and on subcellular level with genetic biosensors. Currently available genetically encoded fluorescent probes for NO and nitrogen species are critically discussed in order to provide insights in the functionality and applicability of these promising tools. As an outlook we provide ideas for novel approaches for the design and application of improved NO probes and fluorescence imaging protocols.