Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) is a ubiquitous second messenger known to orchestrate a myriad of cellular functions over a wide range of timescales. In the last 20 years, a variety of single-cell sensors have been developed to measure second messenger signals including cAMP, Ca2+, and the balance of kinase and phosphatase activities. These sensors utilize changes in fluorescence emission of an individual fluorophore or Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET) to detect changes in second messenger concentration. cAMP and kinase activity reporter probes have provided powerful tools for the study of localized signals. Studies relying on these and related probes have the potential to further revolutionize our understanding of G protein-coupled receptor signaling systems. Unfortunately, investigators have not been able to take full advantage of the potential of these probes due to the limited signal-to-noise ratio of the probes and the limited ability of standard epifluorescence and confocal microscope systems to simultaneously measure the distributions of multiple signals (e.g. cAMP, Ca2+, and changes in kinase activities) in real time. In this review, we focus on recently implemented strategies to overcome these limitations: hyperspectral imaging and adaptive thresholding approaches to track dynamic regions of interest (ROI). This combination of approaches increases signal-to-noise ratio and contrast, and allows identification of localized signals throughout cells. These in turn lead to the identification and quantification of intracellular signals with higher effective resolution. Hyperspectral imaging and dynamic ROI tracking approaches offer investigators additional tools with which to visualize and quantify multiplexed intracellular signaling systems.

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