Transcription Factor Beacons for the Quantitative Detection of DNA Binding Activity

The development of convenient, real-time probes for monitoring protein function in biological samples represents an important challenge of the postgenomic era. In response, we introduce here “transcription factor beacons,” binding-activated fluorescent DNA probes that signal the presence of specific DNA-binding activities. As a proof of principle, we present beacons for the rapid, sensitive detection of three transcription factors (TATA Binding Protein, Myc-Max, and NF-κB), and measure binding activity directly in crude nuclear extracts.