Biological properties of coral GFP-type proteins provide clues for engineering novel optical probes and biosensors

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Citation of Original Publication

Anya Salih, Anthony W. Larkum, Thomas W. Cronin, Joerg Wiedenmann, Ron Szymczak, and Guy C. Cox "Biological properties of coral GFP-type proteins provide clues for engineering novel optical probes and biosensors", Proc. SPIE 5329, Genetically Engineered and Optical Probes for Biomedical Applications II, (14 June 2004); doi: 10.1117/12.548926;


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In recent years, a variety of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP)-like pigments have been discovered from corals and other marine organisms. They are widely used to expand the range of available GFP-type proteins in imaging applications, such as in vivo markers for gene expression and protein localization studies, FRET-based (Förster resonance energy transfer) multicolor imaging and biosensors. They have known diverse optical and biochemical properties but their in vivo spectral properties and biological function in marine organisms is only beginning to be understood. We have investigated their spectral diversity, optical properties and cellular microstructure in corals of the Great Barrier Reef with the aim of elucidating their photo-biological function/s as well as to identify novel proteins suitable for GFP-based technologies. We found numerous spectral variants, with emissions covering almost the full range of the visible spectrum. Many of these GFP-like proteins, especially in corals from the more extreme habitats, such as sun-exposed shallows or in deep water, showed a range of light-related spectral characteristics: high photostability, spectral tuning for energy transfer and dynamic photo-induced transformation properties. Intra-cellularly they were organized into spectral donor-acceptor pairs or even arrays, tuned for FRET. Coral color proteins thus offer an exciting potential to expand the use of the available GFPs in bio-imaging applications and as a basis for improved protein engineering.