Techniques for detecting protein-protein interactions in living cells: principles, limitations, and recent progress

  • Yaning Cui
  • Xi Zhang
  • Meng Yu
  • Yingfang Zhu
  • Jingjing Xing
  • Jinxing LinEmail author


Detecting protein-protein interactions (PPIs) provides fundamental information for understanding biochemical processes such as the transduction of signals from one cellular location to another; however, traditional biochemical techniques cannot provide sufficient spatio-temporal information to elucidate these molecular interactions in living cells. Over the past decade, several new techniques have enabled the identification and characterization of PPIs. In this review, we summarize three main techniques for detecting PPIs in vivo, focusing on their basic principles and applications in biological studies. We place a special emphasis on their advantages and limitations, and, in particular, we introduced some uncommon new techniques, such as single-molecule FRET (smFRET), FRET-fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy (FRET-FLIM), cytoskeleton-based assay for protein-protein interaction (CAPPI) and single-molecule protein proximity index (smPPI), highlighting recent improvements to the established techniques. We hope that this review will provide a valuable reference to enable researchers to select the most appropriate technique for detecting PPIs.


protein-protein interactions in vivo techniques RET PCA co-localization 


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This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31530084, 31761133009) and the Programme of Introducing Talents of Discipline to Universities (111 project, B13007).


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Copyright information

© Science China Press and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yaning Cui
    • 1
    • 2
  • Xi Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Meng Yu
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yingfang Zhu
    • 3
  • Jingjing Xing
    • 3
  • Jinxing Lin
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Tree Breeding by Molecular DesignBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.College of Biological Sciences & BiotechnologyBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Institute of Plant Stress Biology, State Key Laboratory of Cotton Biology, Department of BiologyHenan UniversityKaifengChina

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