Ratiometric bioluminescent sensor proteins based on intramolecular split luciferase complementation

Yan Ni, Remco Arts, Maarten Merkx (Corresponding author)

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32 Citations (Scopus)
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Bioluminescent sensor proteins provide attractive tools for applications ranging from in vivo imaging to point-of-care testing. Here we introduce a new class of ratiometric bioluminescent sensor proteins that do not rely on direct modulation of BRET efficiency, but are based on competitive intramolecular complementation of split NanoLuc luciferase. Proof of concept for the feasibility of this sensor principle was provided by developing a blue-red light emitting sensor protein for the detection of anti-HIV1-p17 antibodies with a 500% change in emission ratio and a K d of 10 pM. The new sensor design also improved the dynamic response of a sensor for the therapeutic antibody cetuximab 4-fold, allowing the direct quantification of this anti-EGFR antibody in undiluted blood plasma. The modular sensor architecture allows easy and systematic tuning of a sensor's dynamic range and should be generally applicable to allow rational engineering of bioluminescent sensor proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20-25
Number of pages6
JournalACS Sensors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jan 2019


  • antibodies
  • biosensors
  • BRET
  • protein engineering
  • split luciferase


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