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In Vitro and In Vivo Enzyme Activity Screening via RNA-Based Fluorescent Biosensors for S‑Adenosyl‑l‑homocysteine (SAH)


High-throughput enzyme activity screens are essential for target characterization and drug development, but few assays employ techniques or reagents that are applicable to both in vitro and live cell settings. Here, we present a class of selective and sensitive fluorescent biosensors for S-adenosyl-l-homocysteine (SAH) that provide a direct "mix and go" activity assay for methyltransferases (MTases), an enzyme class that includes several cancer therapeutic targets. Our riboswitch-based biosensors required an alternate inverted fusion design strategy, but retained full selectivity for SAH over its close structural analogue, the highly abundant methylation cofactor S-adenosyl-l-methionine (SAM). The level of ligand selectivity for these fluorescent biosensors exceeded that of commercial antibodies for SAH and proved critical to cellular applications, as we employed them to measure methylthioadenosine nucleosidase (MTAN) activity in live Escherichia coli. In particular, we were able to monitor in vivo increase of SAH levels upon chemical inhibition of MTAN using flow cytometry, which demonstrates high-throughput, single cell measurement of an enzyme activity associated with the biosynthesis of quorum sensing signal AI-2. Thus, this study presents RNA-based fluorescent biosensors as promising molecular reagents for high-throughput enzymatic assays that successfully bridge the gap between in vitro and in vivo applications.

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