Fluorescent proteins

Allele Publishes mNeonGreen as the Brightest Monomeric Fluorescent Protein for Super-resolution Imaging


This week scientists from Allele Biotechnology and its partner non-profit research institute, the Scintillon Institute, present their latest fluorescent protein, mNeonGreen, in the journal Nature Methods (Nature Publishing Group). In the paper, entitled “A bright monomeric green fluorescent protein derived from Branchiostoma lanceolatum,” the scientists describe the development of the brightest monomeric fluorescent protein to date.

The scientific efforts to develop this novel fluorescent protein were led by Dr. Nathan Shaner, a leader in the field of fluorescent protein engineering. Fluorescent proteins are highly valuable research tools that allow the labeling and imaging of individual proteins within a living cell, and tracking of their movements and localization in real time through a microscope. However, since the discovery of the original green fluorescent protein in 1993, imaging technology has advanced rapidly beyond the capability of most fluorescent proteins. The newly described fluorescent protein, mNeonGreen, allows researchers to take full advantage of modern super-resolution optical microscopy techniques that enable visualization of structures in living and fixed cells at much smaller scales than are possible using traditional optical microscopy. This improvement will lead to countless new insights into human health and a greater understanding of protein interactions at very small distance scales within living cells. According to Dr. Jiwu Wang, the CEO of Allele Biotechnology, “Super-resolution imaging will become the standard for publication in a short period of time, and mNeonGreen allows researchers to meet this standard while still being compatible with the equipment and methods they already use.”

Prominent researchers within the fluorescent protein field are touting mNeonGreen as a replacement for jellyfish-derived Aequorea GFP, one of the most commonly used fluorescent proteins today. According to lead researcher Dr. Nathan Shaner, “mNeonGreen can be directly substituted for other green fluorescent proteins such as EGFP without the need for any equipment changes,” making the upgrade an attractive prospect for many researchers.

Allele Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals Inc. is a San Diego-based biotechnology company specializing in the fields of RNAi, stem cells, viral expression, camelid antibodies and fluorescent proteins. The company has co-developed a number of fluorescent proteins and other products for PALM or STORM super-resolution imaging 3D-SIM, and STED imaging. With the arrival of mNeonGreen, Allele plans to collaborate with leading imaging labs, microscope manufacturers, and journals such as Nature Methods to further promote the advantages and capabilities of the latest imaging methods. Additionally, this announcement will coincide with the launch of a new super-resolution imaging web portal and plasmid depository via collaboration with the Scintillon Institute. The Scintillon Institute is a non-profit research institute established in 2012 using seed funding from Allele Biotech. The institute’s researchers are focused on the development of biological tools to improve human health and quality of life, including applications to cancer imaging, regenerative medicine, and sustainable energy and food production.

For details about Allele’s new Superresolution FP distribution method, read our departmental and institutional usage page.

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Monday, March 25th, 2013 Fluorescent proteins No Comments

Choosing the Right Fluorescent Protein

In 1994 the green fluorescent protein cloned from Aequorea victoria became the first in a long line of genetically encoded labels. Since that time, the fluorescent protein palette has expanded to cover the entire visual spectrum. With so many color variations and options, which fluorescent protein (FP) is best for your research? Three key factors are among the most important to consider: brightness, photostability, and aggregation.

Brightness is the most obvious factor that most researchers consider when choosing an FP. In general, the brighter the FP, the better it will perform under almost all experimental conditions. When evaluating an FP’s brightness, make sure to look at the critical optical parameters — extinction coefficient and quantum yield. The product of these two values for different FPs can be used to directly compare their brightness. Brighter FPs will have lower detection limits (i.e. the concentration at which the FP becomes visible above autofluorescence of other cell components), and will allow imaging with lower excitation light intensity, minimizing the possibility of phototoxic effects.

Photostability has increasingly become a consideration when researchers choose fluorescent proteins. Many FPs, even if they are initially quite bright, will photobleach under continuous excitation during imaging. In order to perform long-term imaging experiments or to do quantitative analysis, an FP with high photostability should be the first choice. Unfortunately, methods for measuring and reporting photostability vary widely in the scientific literature, so be sure to understand how your FP’s photostability was measured before trying to make comparisons!

Aggregation (or oligomerization) has been one of the major issues tackled in the development of FPs. Many wild-type FPs form tetramers, which aggregate badly when expressed as fusion tags in cells. Engineered monomeric forms of many FPs are now available, and these monomeric FPs should always be used when making fusion constructs. For simple expression markers, however, oligomerization is not usually a major concern, and the brightest possible FP should be used in this case.

As with other research tools, doing your homework and reading the primary literature is always the best approach to choosing the right FP for your project!

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Thursday, August 9th, 2012 Fluorescent proteins 1 Comment

VHH Nanobodies in Superresolution Imaging and More

From the large number of recent publications using GFP-Trap beads, it appears that GFP-Trap is on the way to becoming one the most popular tags for co-IP thanks to its unparalleled “cleanness” of precipitated protein bands and its quantitative binding capabilities. As described previously, the antibody conjugated on the GFP-Trap beads is a single-domain antigen binding module from camelid single-chain antibodies. Termed VHH, this domain is only ~12 kD and can fit into structures that other types of antibodies cannot. We have successfully created VHH antibodies against a number of neural factors as a research project for the NIDA/NIH.

VHH antibodies are often called nanobodies as a result of their size (1.5 – 2.5nm) and binding affinity ( GFP-trap has a binding affinity of 0.59nM). In addition to their use for co-IP, VHH antibodies have proven themselves as a resilient tool for various other applications. Anti-GFP nanobodies, for example, are currently used to enhance the fluorescence of GFP (GFP-trap booster utilizes the same VHH binding antibody coupled to a fluorescent dye); others have used VHH antibodies that can insert into certain part of GFP to dim the fluorescence signal . More recently, Ries et al. published in Nature Methods that the anti-GFP nanobodies offered a simple and versatile method for super-resolution imaging (i.e. PALM)-previously super-resolution imaging requires photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (such as Eos, mClavGR2). With dye-conjugated nanobodies, generating fusions to these newer FPs is no longer needed, however, using the nanobody super-imaging method requires fixing and permeabilizing the cells.

When using anti-GFP VHH reagents you need to be aware that other fluorescent proteins can also be recognized, if they were derived from the avGFP (jellyfish GFP). Also, some GFPs are not recognized if they are from another species, or engineered such as our mWasabi. We are producing newer and brighter GFP/YFPs based on the lancelet YFP protein to offer alternative series that will not be cross-recognized by the GFP-Trap antibodies.

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Making Transfection-Grade mRNA by IVT (In Vitro Transcription)

RNases are an often feared in molecular biology labs because of their high stability and ominous presence in virtually all living systems. Consequently, people who work with RNA are trained to exercise extreme caution to avoid RNA degradation: change gloves often because human hands ooze RNases; use only sterilized labware as microbes may be sources of RNases; for surfaces that can’t be autoclaved, use sprays like “RNase Zap” (SDS- or guanidine-containing solutions). Such cautionary steps are especially necessary when dealing with low abundance RNA samples.

RNAs can be produced by in vitro transcription (IVT), a simple reaction requiring only a DNA template (double-stranded or even single-stranded DNA as long as the promoter region is double-stranded), RNA polymerase (from T7, SP6, or T3 phage), NTPs, and a reaction buffer that provides appropriate salt and pH. Standard NTPs may be replaced with modified ones to either increase stability or to reduce immune-response when transfected into cultured cells. Additionally, a 5’ cap structure may be added during IVT for further stabilizing mRNAs inside the cells post transfection. Using a commercially assembled kit, one can routinely produce 40-50 µg of mRNA from 1 µg of DNA template in a single 20-50 µl reaction.

At such high concentrations, IVT mRNAs are not nearly as sensitive to RNase-mediated degradation as low-abundance samples. The mRNA can be easily observed on agarose gels that are regularly used for DNA, and their integrity can be monitored after transcription or storage. In most cases one distinct band of mRNA from an IVT reaction is obtained as long as a clean DNA template is used. Preparing a good, uniform IVT template is critical to prevent aberrant products. By using high quality templates, IVT mRNA produced in your own lab are often higher in quality than mRNAs purchased from current commercial sources (Figure in Blog shows mRNAs generated by IVT for R-iPSC). Sometimes there are minor bands created during IVT, but they normally do not interfere with the intended uses of the mRNA, and can be purified away with a purification kit (by using a discriminating purification scheme such as Allele Biotech’s Surface Bind RNA Purification, smaller species can be specifically removed, a separate topic for another blog).

Once produced, mRNAs can be stored at -20C for months, or -80C nearly indefinitely.

IVT mRNA for iPSC generation

mRNAs generated by IVT for R-iPSC

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About 50 Papers Cited the Use of GFP-Trap Camelid Antibody So Far in 2011

With their ability to quantitatively pulldown GFP-tagged proteins, GFP-Trap (or RFP-Trap for DsRed-derived fluorescent proteins) beads have gained ground in becoming the reagent of choice for immuno-coprecipitation. The complexes isolated from GFP-Trap agarose or magnetic beads can be easily analyzed without interference from light or heavy IgG chains typically present after monoclonal or polyclonal antibody precipitation. Since the market launch of GFP-Trap, in each of the past 3 years, the number of publications citing GFP-Trap more has than doubled and there is no sign of that rate slowing down any time soon.

In 2011 alone, 48 research groups have published their results with data generated through use of GFP-Trap (not including other related products such as GFP-Booster, GFP-MultiTrap). Research topics in these recent publications include identification of domains of the zinc finger protein 638 (ZNF638) that interacts with C/EBPb when promoting adipocyte differentiation [1]; identification of phosphorylation site on Cdc42-associated kinase (Ack) by LC-MS/MS after immunoprecipitation [2]; and analysis of the activities of myosin heavy-chain kinases (MHCKs) in wild-type vs Htt mutant Dictyostelium discoideum, a cellular model for studying the Huntingon disease [3].

The use of GFP-Trap beads is a simple bind-wash-elute procedure that involves just one antibody already immobilized on either agarose or magnetic beads. Camelid antibodies, especially their VHH single domain fragments such as those used in GFP-Trap or RFP-Trap, are very stable (they can be shipped and temporarily stored at room temperature). The consistency of performance is very high; as a matter of fact, this line of products requires the lowest amount of technical support among all of our products. If you are still using tags like FLAG, V5, HA, etc., you should consider trying GFP as both a fluorescence and co-IP tag in your future experiments for obtaining results you previously could not obtain.

New Product of the Week: Non-Integrating iPSC Generation Kits. First of its kind on the market. Click to read more about mRNA-based reprogramming.

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Blog References:
[1] Meruvu, S. et al. “Regulation of Adipocyte Differentiation by the Zinc Finger Protein ZNF638” JBC 2011
[2] Shen, H. et al. “Constitutive activated Cdc42-associated kinase (Ack) phosphorylation at arrested endocytic clathrin-coated pits of cells that lack dynamin” Molecular Biology of the Cell 2011
[3] Wang, Y. et al. “Dictyostelium huntingtin controls chemotaxis and cytokinesis through the regulation of myosin II phosphorylation” Molecular Biology of the Cell 2011

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