Genetically encoded fluorescent indicators for live cell pH imaging
Background: Intracellular pH underlies most cellular processes. There is emerging evidence of a pH-signaling role in plant cells and microorganisms. Dysregulation of pH is associated with human diseases, such as cancer and Alzheimer's disease. Scope of review: In this review, we attempt to provide a summary of the progress that has been made in the field during the past two decades. First, we present an overview of the current state of the design and applications of fluorescent protein (FP)-based pH indicators. Then, we turn our attention to the development and applications of hybrid pH sensors that combine the capabilities of non-GFP fluorophores with the advantages of genetically encoded tags. Finally, we discuss recent advances in multicolor pH imaging and the applications of genetically encoded pH sensors in multiparameter imaging. Major conclusions: Genetically encoded pH sensors have proven to be indispensable noninvasive tools for selective targeting to different cellular locations. Although a variety of genetically encoded pH sensors have been designed and applied at the single cell level, there is still much room for improvements and future developments of novel powerful tools for pH imaging. Among the most pressing challenges in this area is the design of brighter redshifted sensors for tissue research and whole animal experiments. General significance: The design of precise pH measuring instruments is one of the important goals in cell biochemistry and may give rise to the development of new powerful diagnostic tools for various diseases.