The facilitated glucose transporter GLUT1 (SLC2A1) is an important mediator of glucose homeostasis in humans. Though it is found in most cell types to some extent, the level of GLUT1 expression across different cell types can vary dramatically. Prior studies in erythrocytes - which express particularly high levels of GLUT1 - have suggested that GLUT1 is able to form tetrameric complexes with enhanced transport activity. Whether dynamic aggregation of GLUT1 also occurs in cell types with more modest expression of GLUT1, however, is unclear. To address this question, we developed a genetically encoded bioluminescent Förster resonance energy transfer (BRET) assay using the luminescent donor Nanoluciferase and fluorescent acceptor mCherry. By tethering these proteins to the N-terminus of GLUT1 and performing saturation BRET analysis, we were able to demonstrate the formation of multimeric complexes in live cells. Parallel use of flow cytometry and immunoblotting further enabled us to estimate the density of GLUT1 proteins required for spontaneous oligomerization. These data provide new insights into the physiological relevance of GLUT1 multimerization as well as a new variant of BRET assay that is useful for measuring the interactions among other cell membrane proteins in live cells.
Looyenga, Brendan D.; VanOpstall, Calvin; Lee, Zion; and Bell, Jed, "Determination of GLUT1 Oligomerization Parameters using Bioluminescent Förster Resonance Energy Transfer" (2016). University Faculty Publications and Creative Works. 242.