Fluorescence Lifetime Imaging of pH along the Secretory Pathway

Peter T A Linders, Melina Ioannidis, Martin Ter Beest, Geert van den Bogaart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
84 Downloads (Pure)


Many cellular processes are dependent on correct pH levels, and this is especially important for the secretory pathway. Defects in pH homeostasis in distinct organelles cause a wide range of diseases, including disorders of glycosylation and lysosomal storage diseases. Ratiometric imaging of the pH-sensitive mutant of green fluorescent protein, pHLuorin, has allowed for targeted pH measurements in various organelles, but the required sequential image acquisition is intrinsically slow and therefore the temporal resolution is unsuitable to follow the rapid transit of cargo between organelles. Therefore, we applied fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FLIM) to measure intraorganellar pH with just a single excitation wavelength. We first validated this method by confirming the pH in multiple compartments along the secretory pathway and compared the pH values obtained by the FLIM-based measurements with those obtained by conventional ratiometric imaging. Then, we analyzed the dynamic pH changes within cells treated with Bafilomycin A1, to block the vesicular ATPase, and Brefeldin A, to block endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-Golgi trafficking. Finally, we followed the pH changes of newly synthesized molecules of the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-α while they were in transit from the ER via the Golgi to the plasma membrane. The toolbox we present here can be applied to measure intracellular pH with high spatial and temporal resolution and can be used to assess organellar pH in disease models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-251
Number of pages12
JournalACS chemical biology
Issue number1
Early online date10-Jan-2022
Publication statusPublished - 21-Jan-2022

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