mOrange2, a Genetically Encoded, pH Sensitive Fluorescent Protein, is an Alternative to BCECF-AM to Measure Intracellular pH to Determine NHE3 and DRA Activity

Rafiquel Sarker, Chung Ming Tse, Ruxian Lin, George McNamara, Varsha Singh, Mark Donowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background/Aims: NHE3 (Na+/H+ exchanger3) and SLC26A3 (Cl-/HCO3 - exchanger, DRA) are the major components of the intestinal neutral NaCl absorptive process and based on the intestinal segment, contribute to HCO3 - absorption and HCO3 - secretion. NHE3 and DRA are highly regulated by changes in second messengers, cAMP, cGMP and Ca2+. Precise and convenient measurement of exchanger activity is necessary to allow rapid study of physiologic and pharmacologic functions. Some epithelial cells are difficult to load with AM ester dyes and loading may not be uniform. Methods: The use of a genetically modified fluorescent protein, mOrange2 was explored as an intracellular pH sensor protein to measure exchange activity of NHE3 and DRA. The model used was FRT cells stably expressing NHE3 or DRA with intracellular pH measured by changes of mOrange2 fluorescence intensity. Intracellular pH was monitored using a) Isolated single clones of FRT/mOrange2/HA-NHE3 cells studied in a confocal microscope with time-lapse live cell imaging under basal conditions and when NHE3 was inhibited by exposure to forskolin and stimulated by dexamethasone, b) coverslip grown FRT/mOrange2 cells expressing NHE3 or DRA using a computerized fluorometer with a perfused cuvette with standardization of the mOrange2 absorption and emission signal using K+/Nigericin as an internal standard in each experiment. Results: A similar rate of intracellular alkalization by Na+ addition in cells expressing NHE3 and by Cl- removal in cells expressing DRA was found in mOrange2 expressing cells compared to the same cells loaded with BCECF-AM, both using the same pH calibration with K+/Nigericin. Using mOrange2 as the pH sensor, NHE3 basal activity was quantitated and shown to be inhibited by forskolin and stimulated by dexamethasone, and DRA was oppositely shown to be stimulated by forskolin, responses similar to results found using BCECF-AM. Conclusion: This study demonstrates that mOrange2 protein can be an effective alternate to BCECF-AM in measuring intracellular pH (preferred setting Ex520nm, Em 563nm) as affected by NHE3 and DRA activity, with the advantage, compared to AM ester dyes, that genetic expression can provide uniform expression of the pH sensor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-49
Number of pages11
JournalCellular Physiology and Biochemistry
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2022


  • DRA
  • Intracellular pH
  • NHE3
  • mORANGE2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


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