A tunable and versatile chemogenetic near infrared fluorescent reporter


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Near-infrared (NIR) fluorescent reporters provide additional colors for highly multiplexed imaging of cells and organisms, and enable imaging with less toxic light and higher contrast and depth. Here, we present the engineering of nirFAST, a small tunable chemogenetic NIR fluorescent reporter that is brighter than top-performing NIR fluorescent proteins in cultured mammalian cells. nirFAST is a small genetically encoded protein of 14 kDa that binds and stabilizes the fluorescent state of synthetic, highly cell-permeant, fluorogenic chromophores (so-called fluorogens) that are otherwise dark when free. Engineered to emit NIR light, nirFAST can also emit far-red or red lights through change of chromophore. nirFAST allows the imaging of proteins in live cultured mammalian cells, chicken embryo tissues and zebrafish larvae. Its near infrared fluorescence provides an additional color for high spectral multiplexing. We showed that nirFAST is well-suited for stimulated emission depletion (STED) nanoscopy, allowing the efficient imaging of proteins with subdiffraction resolution in live cells. nirFAST enabled the design of a chemogenetic green-NIR fluorescent ubiquitination-based cell cycle indicator (FUCCI) for the monitoring of the different phases of the cell cycle. Finally, bisection of nirFAST allowed the design of a fluorogenic chemically induced dimerization technology with NIR fluorescence readout, enabling the control and visualization of protein proximity. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors declare the following competing financial interest: A.G. and F.P. are co-founders and hold equity in Twinkle Bioscience/The Twinkle Factory, a company commercializing the FAST, split-FAST and CATCHFIRE technologies. The other authors declare no competing interests.
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