Quantifying E2F1 protein dynamics in single cells

Bernard Mathey-Prevot, Bao Tran Parker, Carolyn Im, Cierra Hong, Peng Dong, Guang Yao, Lingchong You

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Background: E2F1 protein, a major effector of the Rb/E2F pathway plays a central role in regulating cell-fate decisions involved in proliferation, apoptosis, and differentiation. Its expression is highly dynamic and tightly modulated through a combination of transcriptional, translational and posttranslational controls. However, the mechanisms by which its expression and activity can promote different cellular outcomes remain to be fully elucidated. To better document E2F1 expression in live cells, we have engineered a series of fluorescent E2F1 protein reporters that quantitatively capture E2F1 protein dynamics. Methods: Reporter constructs, under the control of the mouse or human E2F1 proximal promoter, were designed to express an E2F1-Venus fusion protein incapable of binding DNA. In addition, constructs either included or excluded the 3′ untranslated region (3′UTR) of the E2F1 gene. These constructs were introduced into fibroblasts and epithelial cells, and expression of the fusion reporter protein was validated and quantified in single cells using live imaging. Results: In all cases, expression of the reporter protein effectively recapitulated the behavior of E2F1 under various conditions, including cell cycle progression and genotoxic stress. No or little fluorescent signal of the reporter was detected in G0, but as the cycle progressed, expression of the reporter protein steadily increased in the nucleus, peaking a few hours before cell division, but declining to baseline 2–3 h prior to the onset of mitosis. The absence of the E2F1 3′UTR in the constructs led to considerably higher steady-state levels of the fusion protein, which although normally regulated, exhibited a slightly less complex dynamic profile during the cell cycle or genotoxic stress. Lastly, the presence or absence of Rb failed to impact the overall detection and levels of the reporter proteins. Conclusions: Our validated E2F1 protein reporters complement nicely other reporters of the Rb/E2F pathway and provide a unique tool to follow the complex dynamics of E2F1 expression in real time in single cells. [Figure not available: see fulltext.].

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-30
Number of pages11
JournalQuantitative Biology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020


  • E2F1 reporter
  • cell cycle
  • protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Modeling and Simulation
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics


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