Click Chemistry with Cell-Permeable Fluorophores Expands the Choice of Bioorthogonal Markers for Two-Color Live-Cell STED Nanoscopy


Gregor C, Grimm F, Rehman J, Wurm CA, Egner A




Cells 2024, 13(8), 683.


STED nanoscopy allows for the direct observation of dynamic processes in living cells and tissues with diffraction-unlimited resolution. Although fluorescent proteins can be used for STED imaging, these labels are often outperformed in photostability by organic fluorescent dyes. This feature is especially crucial for time-lapse imaging. Unlike fluorescent proteins, organic fluorophores cannot be genetically fused to a target protein but require different labeling strategies. To achieve simultaneous imaging of more than one protein in the interior of the cell with organic fluorophores, bioorthogonal labeling techniques and cell-permeable dyes are needed. In addition, the fluorophores should preferentially emit in the red spectral range to reduce the potential phototoxic effects that can be induced by the STED light, which further restricts the choice of suitable markers. In this work, we selected five different cell-permeable organic dyes that fulfill all of the above requirements and applied them for SPIEDAC click labeling inside living cells. By combining click-chemistry-based protein labeling with other orthogonal and highly specific labeling methods, we demonstrate two-color STED imaging of different target structures in living specimens using different dye pairs. The excellent photostability of the dyes enables STED imaging for up to 60 frames, allowing the observation of dynamic processes in living cells over extended time periods at super-resolution.