Optical quantification of intracellular pH in Drosophila melanogaster malpighian tubule epithelia with a fluorescent genetically-encoded pH indicator

Adam J. Rossano, Michael F. Romero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Epithelial ion transport is vital to systemic ion homeostasis as well as maintenance of essential cellular electrochemical gradients. Intracellular pH (pHi) is influenced by many ion transporters and thus monitoring pHi is a useful tool for assessing transporter activity. Modern Genetically Encoded pH-Indicators (GEpHIs) provide optical quantification of pHi in intact cells on a cellular and subcellular scale. This protocol describes real-time quantification of cellular pHi regulation in Malpighian Tubules (MTs) of Drosophila melanogaster through ex vivo live-imaging of pHerry, a pseudo-ratiometric GEpHI with a pKa well-suited to track pH changes in the cytosol. Extracted adult fly MTs are composed of morphologically and functionally distinct sections of single-cell layer epithelia, and can serve as an accessible and genetically tractable model for investigation of epithelial transport. GEpHIs offer several advantages over conventional pH-sensitive fluorescent dyes and ion-selective electrodes. GEpHIs can label distinct cell populations provided appropriate promoter elements are available. This labeling is particularly useful in ex vivo, in vivo, and in situ preparations, which are inherently heterogeneous. GEpHIs also permit quantification of pHi in intact tissues over time without need for repeated dye treatment or tissue externalization. The primary drawback of current GEpHIs is the tendency to aggregate in cytosolic inclusions in response to tissue damage and construct over-expression. These shortcomings, their solutions, and the inherent advantages of GEpHIs are demonstrated in this protocol through assessment of basolateral proton (H+) transport in functionally distinct principal and stellate cells of extracted fly MTs. The techniques and analysis described are readily adaptable to a wide variety of vertebrate and invertebrate preparations, and the sophistication of the assay can be scaled from teaching labs to intricate determination of ion flux via specific transporters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere55698
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number126
StatePublished - Aug 9 2017


  • Biochemistry
  • Drosophila
  • Epithelia
  • Fluorescent reporter
  • Genetically encoded pH indicator
  • Intracellular pH
  • Ion transport
  • Issue 126
  • Live imaging
  • Malpighian tubules
  • PH regulation
  • PHerry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Chemical Engineering(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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