A Ratiometric Sensor for Imaging Insulin Secretion in Single β Cells

Martina Schifferer, Dmytro A. Yushchenko, Frank Stein, Andrey Bolbat, Carsten Schultz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Despite the urgent need for assays to visualize insulin secretion there is to date no reliable method available for measuring insulin release from single cells. To address this need, we developed a genetically encoded reporter termed RINS1 based on proinsulin superfolder GFP (sfGFP) and mCherry fusions for monitoring insulin secretion. RINS1 expression in MIN6 β cells resulted in proper processing yielding single-labeled insulin species. Unexpectedly, glucose or drug stimulation of insulin secretion in β cells led to the preferential release of the insulin-sfGFP construct, while the mCherry-fused C-peptide remained trapped in exocytic granules. This physical separation was used to monitor glucose-stimulated insulin secretion ratiometrically by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy in single MIN6 and primary mouse β cells. Further, RINS1 enabled parallel monitoring of pulsatile insulin release in tolbutamide-treated β cells, demonstrating the potential of RINS1 for investigations of antidiabetic drug candidates at the single-cell level.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)525-531.e4
JournalCell Chemical Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 20 2017


  • TIRF
  • biosensor
  • calcium
  • fluorescence
  • glucose
  • granule
  • insulin
  • mCherry
  • oscillation
  • potassium channel
  • superfolder GFP
  • tolbutamide

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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