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Current Opinion in Chemical Biology
Volume 57, 2020, Pages 155-165

Enzyme-targeted fluorescent small-molecule probes for bacterial imaging

Andrew P.Marshall1,a, Joshua D.Shirley2,a, Erin E.Carlson1,2,3

Department of Chemistry, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, MN, United States.


Molecular imaging methods to visualize myriad biochemical processes in bacteria have traditionally been dependent upon molecular biology techniques to incorporate fluorescent biomolecules (e.g., fusion proteins). Such methods have been instrumental in our understanding of how bacteria function but are not without drawbacks, including potential perturbation to native protein expression and function. To overcome these limitations, the use of fluorescent small-molecule probes has gained much attention. Here, we highlight examples from the recent literature that showcase the utility of small-molecule probes for the fluorescence imaging of bacterial cells, including electrophilic, metabolic, and enzyme-activated probes. Although the use of these types of compounds for bacterial imaging is still relatively new, the selected examples demonstrate the exciting potential of these critical tools in the exploration of bacterial physiology.

Keywords: Bacteria, Fluorescence imaging, Chemical probe, Electrophile, Activity-based probe.

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