Article ID: EJ21-0255
α-Ketoglutarate (α-KG) also known as 2-oxoglutarate (2-OG) is an intermediate metabolite in the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle and is also produced by the deamination of glutamate. It is an indispensable cofactor for a series of 2-oxoglutarate-dependent oxygenases including epigenetic modifiers such as ten-eleven translocation DNA demethylases (TETs) and JmjC domain-containing histone demethylases (JMJDs). Since these epigenetic enzymes target genomic DNA and histone in the nucleus, the nuclear concentration of α-KG would affect the levels of transcription by modulating the activity of the epigenetic enzymes. Thus, it is of great interest to measure the nuclear concentration of α-KG to elucidate the regulatory mechanism of these enzymes. Here, we report a novel fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET)-based biosensor with multiple nuclear localization signals (NLSs) to measure the nuclear concentration of α-KG. The probe contains the α-KG-binding GAF domain of NifA protein from Azotobacter vinelandii fused with EYFP and ECFP. Treatment of 3T3-L1 preadipocytes expressing this probe with either dimethyl-2-oxoglutarate (dimethyl-2-OG), a cell-permeable 2-OG derivative, or citrate elicited time- and dose-dependent changes in the FRET ratio, proving that this probe functions as an α-KG sensor. Measurement of the nuclear α-KG levels in the 3T3-L1 cells stably expressing the probe during adipocyte differentiation revealed that the nuclear concentration of α-KG increased in the early stage of differentiation and remained high thereafter. Thus, this nuclear-localized α-KG probe is a powerful tool for real-time monitoring of α-KG concentrations with subcellular resolution in living cells and is useful for elucidating the regulatory mechanisms of epigenetic enzymes.