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Ligand-Receptor Interactions in Live Cells by Fluorescence Correlation Spectroscopy

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Receptor binding studies most often require the use of radioactively labeled ligands. In certain cases, the numbers of receptors are few per cell and no specific binding is detected because of a high background. Specific interactions between certain ligands (e.g. peptides, hormones, natural products) and their receptors are, therefore, often overlooked by the conventional binding technique. Fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) allows detection of the interaction of ligands with receptors in their native environment in live cells in a tiny confocal volume element (0.2 fl) at single-molecule detection sensitivity. This technique permits the identification of receptors which were not possible before to detect by isotope labeling. The beauty of the FCS technique is that there is no need for separating an unbound ligand from a bound one to calculate the receptor bound and free ligand fractions. This review will show FCS as a sensitive and a rapid technique to study ligand-receptor interaction in live cells and will demonstrate that the FCS-analysis of ligand-receptor interactions in live cells fulfils all the criteria of a ligand binding to its receptor i.e. it is able to provide information on the affinity and specificity of a ligand, binding constant, association and dissociation rate constants as well as the number and mobility of receptors carrying a fluorescently labeled ligand. This review is of pharmaceutical significance since it will provide insights on how FCS can be used as a rapid technique for studying ligand-receptor interactions in cell cultures, which is one step forward towards a high throughput drug screening in cell cultures.

Keywords: brownian motion; fluorescence; ligand; receptor

Document Type: Review Article


Affiliations: Department of Medical Biochemistry and Biophysics, Karolinska Institute, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.

Publication date: 2004-04-01

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  • Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology aims to cover all the latest and outstanding developments in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Each issue of the journal contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of current topics in both pre-clinical and clinical areas of Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology is an essential journal for academic, clinical, government and pharmaceutical scientists who wish to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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