Super-Resolution Imaging of Bacterial Secreted Proteins Using Genetic Code Expansion

Moirangthem Kiran Singh, Linda J. Kenney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Type three secretion systems (T3SSs) enable gram-negative bacteria to inject a battery of effector proteins directly into the cytosol of eukaryotic host cells. Upon entry, the injected effector proteins cooperatively modulate eukaryotic signaling pathways and reprogram cellular functions, enabling bacterial entry and survival. Monitoring and localizing these secreted effector proteins in the context of infections provides a footprint for defining the dynamic interface of host-pathogen interactions. However, labeling and imaging bacterial proteins in host cells without disrupting their structure/ function is technically challenging. Constructing fluorescent fusion proteins does not resolve this problem, because the fusion proteins jam the secretory apparatus and thus are not secreted. To overcome these obstacles, we recently employed a method for site-specific fluorescent labeling of bacterial secreted effectors, as well as other difficult-to-label proteins, using genetic code expansion (GCE). This paper provides a complete step-by-step protocol to label Salmonella secreted effectors using GCE site-specifically, followed by directions for imaging the subcellular localization of secreted proteins in HeLa cells using direct stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (dSTORM) Recent findings suggest that the incorporation of non-canonical amino acids (ncAAs) via GCE, followed by bio-orthogonal labeling with tetrazine-containing dyes, is a viable technique for selective labeling and visualization of bacterial secreted proteins and subsequent image analysis in the host. The goal of this article is to provide a straightforward and clear protocol that can be employed by investigators interested in conducting super-resolution imaging using GCE to study various biological processes in bacteria and viruses, as well as host-pathogen interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere64382
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number192
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Chemical Engineering
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology


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