Accurate spatiotemporal assessment of extracellular vesicle (EV) delivery and cargo RNA translation requires specific and robust live-cell imaging technologies. Here we engineer optical reporters to label multiple EV populations for visualization and tracking of tumour EV release, uptake and exchange between cell populations both in culture and in vivo. Enhanced green fluorescence protein (EGFP) and tandem dimer Tomato (tdTomato) were fused at NH2-termini with a palmitoylation signal (PalmGFP, PalmtdTomato) for EV membrane labelling. To monitor EV-RNA cargo, transcripts encoding PalmtdTomato were tagged with MS2 RNA binding sequences and detected by co-expression of bacteriophage MS2 coat protein fused with EGFP. By multiplexing fluorescent and bioluminescent EV membrane reporters, we reveal the rapid dynamics of both EV uptake and translation of EV-delivered cargo mRNAs in cancer cells that occurred within 1-hour post-horizontal transfer between cells. These studies confirm that EV-mediated communication is dynamic and multidirectional between cells with delivery of functional mRNA.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) act as a conduit for intercellular communication through the exchange of cellular materials without direct cell-to-cell contacts. Here the authors develop a multiplexed reporter system that allows monitoring of EV exchange, cargo delivery and protein translation between different cell populations.
The tumor-tropic properties of neural stem cells (NSCs) have been shown to serve as a novel strategy to deliver therapeutic genes to tumors. Recently, we have reported that the cardiac glycoside lanatoside C (Lan C) sensitizes glioma cells to the anticancer agent tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL). Here, we engineered an FDA-approved human NSC line to synthesize and secrete TRAIL and the Gaussia luciferase (Gluc) blood reporter. We showed that upon systemic injection, these cells selectively migrate toward tumors in the mice brain across the blood-brain barrier, target invasive glioma stem-like cells, and induce tumor regression when combined with Lan C. Gluc blood assay revealed that 30% of NSCs survived 1 day postsystemic injection and around 0.5% of these cells remained viable after 5 weeks in glioma-bearing mice. This study demonstrates the potential of systemic injection of NSCs to deliver anticancer agents, such as TRAIL, which yields glioma regression when combined with Lan C.
Glioblastoma; Neural stem cells; Tumor-tropic; Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand; Cardiac glycoside
Recently, the gene therapy field has begun to experience clinical successes in a number of different diseases using various approaches and vectors. The workshop Gene Therapy: Charting a Future Course, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Biotechnology Activities, brought together early and mid-career researchers to discuss the key scientific challenges and opportunities, ethical and communication issues, and NIH and foundation resources available to facilitate further clinical advances.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are lipid membrane vesicles released by cells. They carry active biomolecules including DNA, RNA, and protein which can be transferred to recipient cells. Isolation and purification of EVs from culture cell media and biofluids is still a major challenge. The most widely used isolation method is ultracentrifugation (UC) which requires expensive equipment and only partially purifies EVs. Previously we have shown that heparin blocks EV uptake in cells, supporting a direct EV-heparin interaction. Here we show that EVs can be purified from cell culture media and human plasma using ultrafiltration (UF) followed by heparin-affinity beads. UF/heparin-purified EVs from cell culture displayed the EV marker Alix, contained a diverse RNA profile, had lower levels of protein contamination, and were functional at binding to and uptake into cells. RNA yield was similar for EVs isolated by UC. We were able to detect mRNAs in plasma samples with comparable levels to UC samples. In conclusion, we have discovered a simple, scalable, and effective method to purify EVs taking advantage of their heparin affinity.
Application of bioluminescence imaging has grown tremendously in the past decade and has significantly contributed to the core conceptual advances in biomedical research. This technology provides valuable means for monitoring of different biological processes for immunology, oncology, virology and neuroscience. In this review, we will discuss current trends in bioluminescence and its application in different fields with emphasis on cancer research.
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are nano-sized vesicles released by normal and diseased cells as a novel form of intercellular communication, and can serve as an effective therapeutic vehicle for genes and drugs. Yet, much remains unknown about the in vivo properties of EVs such as tissue distribution, and blood levels and urine clearance - important parameters that will define their therapeutic effectiveness and potential toxicity. Here we combined Gaussia luciferase and metabolic biotinylation to create a sensitive EV reporter (EV-GlucB) for multimodal imaging in vivo, as well as monitoring of EV levels in the organs and biofluids ex vivo after administration of EVs. Bioluminescence and fluorescence-mediated tomography imaging on mice displayed a predominant localization of intravenously administered EVs in the spleen followed by the liver. Monitoring EV signal in the organs, blood and urine further revealed that the EVs first undergo a rapid distribution phase followed by a longer elimination phase via hepatic and renal routes within six hours, which are both faster than previously reported using dye-labeled EVs. Moreover, we demonstrate systemically injected EVs can be delivered to tumor sites within an hour following injection. Altogether, we show the EVs are dynamically processed in vivo with accurate spatiotemporal resolution, and target a number of normal organs as well as tumors with implications for disease pathology and therapeutic design.
Exosomes; microvesicles; bioluminescence; fluorescence; biotin; biodistribution; delivery
Extracellular vesicles (EVs) are small nanometre-sized vesicles that are circulating in blood. They are released by multiple cells, including tumour cells. We hypothesized that circulating EVs contain protein kinases that may be assessed as biomarkers during treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
EVs released by U87 glioma cells, H3255 and H1650 non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells were profiled by tandem mass spectrometry. Total AKT/protein kinase B and extracellular signal regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2) levels as well as their relative phosphorylation were measured by western blot in isogenic U87 cells with or without mutant epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFRvIII) and their corresponding EVs. To assess biomarker potential, plasma samples from 24 healthy volunteers and 42 patients with cancer were used.
In total, 130 different protein kinases were found to be released in EVs including multiple drug targets, such as mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), AKT, ERK1/2, AXL and EGFR. Overexpression of EGFRvIII in U87 cells results in increased phosphorylation of EGFR, AKT and ERK1/2 in cells and EVs, whereas a decreased phosphorylation was noted upon treatment with the EGFR inhibitor erlotinib. EV samples derived from patients with cancer contained significantly more protein (p=0.0067) compared to healthy donors. Phosphorylation of AKT and ERK1/2 in plasma EVs from both healthy donors and patients with cancer was relatively low compared to levels in cancer cells. Preliminary analysis of total AKT and ERK1/2 levels in plasma EVs from patients with NSCLC before and after sorafenib/metformin treatment (n=12) shows a significant decrease in AKT levels among patients with a favourable treatment response (p<0.005).
Phosphorylation of protein kinases in EVs reflects their phosphorylation in tumour cells. Total AKT protein levels may allow monitoring of kinase inhibitor responses in patients with cancer.
biomarker; cancer; kinase inhibitor; signalling; plasma
Reporters secreted into the conditioned medium in culture or into blood in vivo have shown to be useful tools for simple and non-invasive monitoring of biological processes in real-time. Here, we characterize the naturally secreted Vargula luciferase as a secreted blood reporter and show that this reporter can be multiplexed with the secreted Gaussia luciferase and alkaline phosphatase for simultaneous monitoring of three different cellular processes in the same biological system. We applied this system to monitor the response of three different subsets of glioma cells to a clinically-relevant chemotherapeutic agent in the same well in culture or animal in vivo. This system could be applied to any field to detect multiple biological phenomena in the same biological system and is amenable for high-throughput screening to find drugs that affect multiple cellular populations/phenomena simultaneously.
Glioblastomas exhibit a high level of chemotherapeutic resistance, including to the antimitotic agents vincristine and taxol. During the mitotic agent-induced arrest, glioblastoma cells are able to perform damage-control and self-repair to continue proliferation. Monopolar spindle 1 (MPS1/TTK) is a checkpoint kinase and a gatekeeper of the mitotic arrest.
We used glioblastoma cells to determine the expression of MPS1 and to determine the effects of MPS1 inhibition on mitotic errors and cell viability in combination with vincristine and taxol. The effect of MPS1 inhibition was assessed in different orthotopic glioblastoma mouse models (n = 3–7 mice/group). MPS1 expression levels were examined in relation to patient survival.
Using publicly available gene expression data, we determined that MPS1 overexpression corresponds positively with tumor grade and negatively with patient survival (two-sided t test, P < .001). Patients with high MPS1 expression (n = 203) had a median and mean survival of 487 and 913 days (95% confidence intervals [CI] = 751 to 1075), respectively, and a 2-year survival rate of 35%, whereas patients with intermediate MPS1 expression (n = 140) had a median and mean survival of 858 and 1183 days (95% CI = 1177 to 1189), respectively, and a 2-year survival rate of 56%. We demonstrate that MPS1 inhibition by RNAi results in sensitization to antimitotic agents. We developed a selective small-molecule inhibitor of MPS1, MPS1-IN-3, which caused mitotic aberrancies in glioblastoma cells and, in combination with vincristine, induced mitotic checkpoint override, increased aneuploidy, and augmented cell death. MPS1-IN-3 sensitizes glioblastoma cells to vincristine in orthotopic mouse models (two-sided log-rank test, P < .01), resulting in prolonged survival without toxicity.
Our results collectively demonstrate that MPS1, a putative therapeutic target in glioblastoma, can be selectively inhibited by MPS1-IN-3 sensitizing glioblastoma cells to antimitotic drugs.
Tumor cells present high levels of oxidative stress. Cancer therapeutics exploiting such biochemical changes by increasing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production or decreasing intracellular ROS scavengers could provide a powerful treatment strategy.
To test the effect of our compound, obtusaquinone (OBT), we used several cell viability assays on seven different glioblastoma (GBM) cell lines and primary cells and on 12 different cell lines representing various cancer types in culture as well as on subcutaneous (n = 7 mice per group) and two intracranial GBM (n = 6–8 mice per group) and breast cancer (n = 6 mice per group) tumor models in vivo. Immunoblotting, immunostaining, flow cytometry, and biochemical assays were used to investigate the OBT mechanism of action. Histopathological analysis (n = 2 mice per group) and blood chemistry (n = 2 mice per group) were used to test for any compound-related toxicity. Statistical tests were two-sided.
OBT induced rapid increase in intracellular ROS levels, downregulation of cellular glutathione levels and increase in its oxidized form, and activation of cellular stress pathways and DNA damage, subsequently leading to apoptosis. Oxidative stress is believed to be the main mechanism through which this compounds targets cancer cells. OBT was well tolerated in mice, slowed tumor growth, and statistically prolonged survival in GBM tumor models. The ratio of median survival in U251 intracranial model in OBT vs control was 1.367 (95% confidence interval [CI] of ratio = 1.031 to 1.367, P = .008). Tumor growth inhibition was also observed in a mouse breast cancer model (average tumor volume per mouse, OBT vs control: 36.3 vs 200.4mm3, difference = 164.1mm3, 95% CI =72.6 to 255.6mm3, P = .005).
Given its properties and efficacy in cancer killing, our results suggest that OBT is a promising cancer therapeutic.
Gaussia Luciferase (Gluc) has proven to be a powerful mammalian cell reporter for monitoring numerous biological processes in immunology, virology, oncology and neuroscience. Current limitations of Gluc as a reporter include its emission of blue light which is absorbed by mammalian tissues, limiting its use in vivo, and a flash-type bioluminescence reaction, making it unsuited for high-throughput applications. To overcome these limitations, a library of Gluc variants was generated using directed molecular evolution and screened for relative light output, a shift in emission spectrum, and glow-type light emission kinetics. Several variants with a 10–15 nm shift in their light emission peak were found. Further, a Gluc variant that catalyzes a glow-type bioluminescence reaction yielding over 10 minutes of stable light output, suited for high-throughput applications, was also identified. These results indicate that molecular evolution could be used to modulate Gluc bioluminescence reaction characteristics.
Transient cell therapy is an emerging drug class that requires new approaches for pharmacological monitoring during use. Human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are a clinically-tested transient cell therapeutic that naturally secrete anti-inflammatory factors to attenuate immune-mediated diseases. MSCs were used as a proof-of-concept with the hypothesis that measuring the release of secreted factors after cell transplantation, rather than the biodistribution of the cells alone, would be an alternative monitoring tool to understand the exposure of a subject to MSCs. By comparing cellular engraftment and the associated serum concentration of secreted factors released from the graft, we observed clear differences between the pharmacokinetics of MSCs and their secreted factors. Exploration of the effects of natural or engineered secreted proteins, active cellular secretion pathways, and clearance mechanisms revealed novel aspects that affect the systemic exposure of the host to secreted factors from a cellular therapeutic. We assert that a combined consideration of cell delivery strategies and molecular pharmacokinetics can provide a more predictive model for outcomes of MSC transplantation and potentially other transient cell therapeutics.
Glioblastoma is the most common malignant primary brain tumor. Temozolomide (TMZ) is the standard chemotherapeutic agent for this disease. However, intrinsic and acquired TMZ-resistance represents a major obstacle for this therapy. In order to identify factors involved in TMZ-resistance, we engineered different TMZ-resistant glioblastoma cell lines. Gene expression analysis demonstrated that EFEMP1, an extracellular matrix protein, is associated with TMZ-resistant phenotype. Silencing of EFEMP1 in glioblastoma cells resulted in decreased cell survival following TMZ treatment, whereas overexpression caused TMZ-resistance. EFEMP1 acts via multiple signaling pathways, including γ-secretase-mediated activation of the Notch pathway. We show that inhibition of γ-secretase by RO4929097 causes at least partial sensitization of glioblastoma cells to temozolomide in vitro and in vivo. In addition, we show that EFEMP1 expression levels correlate with survival in TMZ-treated glioblastoma patients. Altogether our results suggest EFEMP1 as a potential therapeutic target to overcome TMZ-resistance in glioblastoma.
Temozolomide resistance; glioblastoma; EFEMP1; γ-secretase; Notch; GSI
Bioluminescence imaging (BLI) has shown to be crucial for monitoring in vivo biological processes. So far, only dual bioluminescence imaging using firefly (Fluc) and Renilla or Gaussia (Gluc) luciferase has been achieved due to the lack of availability of other efficiently expressed luciferases using different substrates. Here, we characterized a codon-optimized luciferase from Vargula hilgendorfii (Vluc) as a reporter for mammalian gene expression. We showed that Vluc can be multiplexed with Gluc and Fluc for sequential imaging of three distinct cellular phenomena in the same biological system using vargulin, coelenterazine, and D-luciferin substrates, respectively. We applied this triple imaging system to monitor the effect of soluble tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (sTRAIL) delivered using an adeno-associated viral vector (AAV) on brain tumors in mice. Vluc imaging showed efficient sTRAIL gene delivery to the brain, while Fluc imaging revealed a robust antiglioma therapy. Further, nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation in response to sTRAIL binding to glioma cells death receptors was monitored by Gluc imaging. This work is the first demonstration of trimodal in vivo bioluminescence imaging and will have a broad applicability in many different fields including immunology, oncology, virology, and neuroscience.
bioluminescence imaging; firefly luciferase; Gaussia luciferase; Vargula luciferase
Mycoplasma contamination in mammalian cell cultures is often overlooked yet is a serious issue which can induce a myriad of cellular changes leading to false interpretation of experimental results. Here we present a simple and sensitive assay to monitor mycoplasma contamination (mycosensor) based on degradation of the Gaussia luciferase reporter in the conditioned medium of cells. This assay proved to be more sensitive as compared to a commercially-available bioluminescent assay in detecting mycoplasma contamination in seven different cell lines. The Gaussia luciferase mycosensor assay provides an easy tool to monitor mammalian cells contaminants in a high-throughput fashion.
We have developed a multifaceted highly specific reporter for multimodal in vivo imaging and applied it for detection of brain tumors. A metabolically biotinylated, membrane-bound form of Gaussia luciferase was synthesized, termed mbGluc-biotin. We engineered glioma cells to express this reporter and showed that brain tumor formation can be temporally imaged by bioluminescence following systemic administration of coelenterazine. Brain tumors expressing this reporter had high sensitivity for detection by magnetic resonance and fluorescence tomographic imaging upon injection of streptavidin conjugated to magnetic nanoparticles or fluorophore, respectively. Moreover, single photon emission computed tomography showed enhanced imaging of these tumors upon injection with streptavidin complexed to 111In-DTPA-biotin. This work shows for the first time a single small reporter ( 40 kDa) which can be monitored with most available molecular imaging modalities and can be extended for single cell imaging using intravital microscopy, allowing real-time tracking of any cell expressing it in vivo.
Secreted Gaussia Luciferase (Gluc) has been shown to be a useful tool for ex vivo monitoring of in vivo biological processes. The Gluc level in the blood was used to detect tumor growth, metastasis and response to therapy, gene transfer, circulating cells viability, as well as transcription factors activation, complementing in vivo bioluminescence imaging. The sensitivity of the Gluc blood assay is limited due to the absorption of blue light by pigmented molecules such as hemoglobin resulting in quenching of the signal and therefore lower sensitivity. To overcome this problem, we designed an alternative microtiter well-based binding assay in which Gluc is captured first from blood using a specific antibody followed by the addition of coelenterazine and signal acquisition using a luminometer. This assay showed to be over one order of magnitude more sensitive in detecting Gluc in the blood as compared to the direct Gluc blood assay enhancing ex vivo monitoring of biological processes.
We have developed a multiplex reporter system to monitor multiple biological variables in real-time. The secreted Gaussia luciferase was fused to ten different epitope tags (Gluctag), each expressed in different tumor cells. By immunobinding of the tags followed by Gluctag detection, this system allowed the independent and real-time monitoring of mixed cell cultures in vitro and of mixed subcutaneous and intracranial tumor subpopulations in vivo.
TorsinA is an AAA+ ATPase located within the lumen of the endoplasmic reticulum and nuclear envelope, with a mutant form causing early onset torsion dystonia (DYT1). Here we report a new function for torsinA in endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD). Retro-translocation and proteosomal degradation of a mutant cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTRΔF508) was inhibited by downregulation of torsinA or overexpression of mutant torsinA, and facilitated by increased torsinA. Retro-translocation of cholera toxin was also decreased by downregulation of torsinA. TorsinA associates with proteins implicated in ERAD, including Derlin-1, VIMP, and p97. Further, torsinA reduces endoplasmic reticulum stress in nematodes overexpressing CFTRΔF508, and fibroblasts from DYT1 dystonia patients are more sensitive than controls to endoplasmic reticulum stress and less able to degrade mutant CFTR. Therefore, compromised ERAD function in the cells of DYT1 patients may increase sensitivity to endoplasmic reticulum stress with consequent alterations in neuronal function contributing to the disease state.
dystonia; movement disorder; secretory pathway; retro-translocation; protein degradation; proteosome; cystic fibrosis; cholera toxin
Human glioblastoma (GBM) cells are notorious for their resistance to apoptosis-inducing therapeutics. We have identified lanatoside C as a sensitizer of GBM cells to tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)–induced cell death partly by upregulation of the death receptor 5. We show that lanatoside C sensitizes GBM cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis in a GBM xenograft model in vivo. Lanatoside C on its own serves as a therapeutic agent against GBM by activating a caspase-independent cell death pathway. Cells treated with lanatoside C showed necrotic cell morphology with absence of caspase activation, low mitochondrial membrane potential, and early intracellular ATP depletion. In conclusion, lanatoside C sensitizes GBM cells to TRAIL-induced cell death and mitigates apoptosis resistance of glioblastoma cells by inducing an alternative cell death pathway. To our knowledge, this is one of the first examples of use of caspase-independent cell death inducers to trigger tumor regression in vivo. Activation of such mechanism may be a useful strategy to counter resistance of cancer cells to apoptosis.
cardiac glycoside; glioblastoma; lanatoside C; non-apoptotic cell death; TRAIL
Secreted reporters which are detected in the blood/serum/urine have shown to be simple and useful tools for ex vivo real-time monitoring of in vivo biological processes. Here we explore the three most commonly used secreted blood reporters in experimental animals: secreted alkaline phosphatase, soluble peptides derived from human carcinoembryonic antigen and human chorionic gonadotropin, and Gaussia luciferase. We also comment on other recently discovered secreted reporters and their potential use as blood reporters for multiplexing applications.
Here we describe a novel functional screening assay based on bioluminescence monitoring of the naturally secreted Gaussia luciferase (Gluc) in the conditioned medium of cultured cells. Using this assay, we identified small-molecule drugs that sensitized brain tumor cells to the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand-induced cell death. Human glioblastoma multiforme cells were engineered by gene transfer to express Gluc as a reporter for cell viability, which can be monitored over time by bioluminescence measurements using a plate luminometer. We have optimized the Gluc assay for screening and validated it using the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) custom collection II library consisting of 1,040 drugs and bioactive compounds, most of which are Food and Drug Administration-approved and are able to cross the blood–brain barrier. We found that the cardiac glycosides family sensitized glioblastoma multiforme cells to the tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand-induced apoptosis. In conclusion, the Gluc secretion assay is a robust tool for functional drug screening and can be applied to many different fields including cancer.
Adeno-associated virus (AAV) mediated gene replacement for lysosomal disorders have been spurred by the ability of some serotypes to efficiently transduce neurons in the brain and by the ability of lysosomal enzymes to cross-correct among cells. Here, we explored enzyme replacement therapy in a knock-out mouse model of congenital neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis (NCL), the most severe of the NCLs in humans. The missing protease in this disorder, cathepsin D (CathD) has high levels in the central nervous system (CNS). This enzyme has the potential advantage for assessing experimental therapy in that it can be imaged using a near-infrared fluorescence (NIRF) probe activated by CathD. Injections of an AAV2/rh8 vector encoding mouse cathepsin D (mCathD) into both cerebral ventricles and peritoneum of newborn knock-out mice resulted in a significant increase in lifespan. Successful delivery of active CathD by the AAV2/rh8-mCathD vector was verified by NIRF imaging of mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) from knock-out mice in culture, as well as by ex vivo NIRF imaging of brain and liver after gene transfer. These studies support the potential effectiveness and imaging evaluation of enzyme replacement therapy to the brain and other organs in CathD null mice via AAV-mediated gene delivery in neonatal animals.
near-infrared; fluorescence; lysosomal storage disease; cathepsin D; central nervous system; gene therapy; AAV; neurologic disease
MicroRNA (miRNA) expression profiling studies revealed a number of miRNAs dysregulated in the malignant brain tumor, glioblastoma. Molecular functions of these miRNAs in gliomagenesis are mainly unknown. We show that inhibition of miR-10b, a miRNA not expressed in human brain and strongly up-regulated in both low-grade and high-grade gliomas, reduces glioma cell growth by cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. These cellular responses are mediated by augmented expression of the direct targets of miR-10b, including BCL2L11/Bim, TFAP2C/AP-2γ, CDKN1A/p21, and CDKN2A/p16, which normally protect cells from uncontrolled growth. Analysis of The Cancer Genome Atlas (TCGA) expression dataset reveals a strong positive correlation between numerous genes sustaining cellular growth and miR-10b levels in human glioblastomas, while pro-apoptotic genes anti-correlate with the expression of miR-10b. Furthermore, survival of glioblastoma patients expressing high levels of miR-10 family members is significantly reduced in comparison to patients with low miR-10 levels, indicating that miR-10 may contribute to glioma growth in vivo. Finally, inhibition of miR-10b in a mouse model of human glioma results in significant reduction of tumor growth. Altogether, our experiments validate an important role of miR-10b in gliomagenesis, reveal a novel mechanism of miR-10b-mediated regulation, and suggest the possibility of its future use as a therapeutic target in gliomas.
microRNA; glioma; apoptosis; cell cycle; cancer
Metabolic biotinylation of intracellular and secreted proteins as well as surface receptors in mammalian cells provides a versatile way for: monitoring gene expression; purifying and targeting of viral vectors; monitoring cell and tumor distribution in real time in vivo; labeling cells for isolation; and tagging proteins for purification, localization and trafficking. Here, we show that metabolic biotinylation of proteins fused to the bacterial biotin acceptor peptides (BAP) varies among different mammalian cell types and can be enhanced by over 10-fold upon over-expression of the bacterial biotin ligase directed to the same cellular compartment as the fusion protein. We also show that in vivo imaging of metabolically biotinylated cell surface receptors using streptavidin conjugates is significantly enhanced upon co-expression of bacterial biotin ligase in the secretory pathway. These findings have practical applications in designing more efficient targeting and imaging strategies.