fluorescent protein

The Development of mNeonGreen

This week our most recent publication, “A bright monomeric green fluorescent protein derived from Branchiostoma lanceolatum” will be published in Nature Methods. It has already been viewable online for some time now, here is a link. We believe this new protein possesses a great deal of potential to advance the imaging fields through enhanced fluorescent microscopy. mNeonGreen enables numerous super resolution imaging techniques and allows for greater clarity and insight into one’s research. As a result of this we are taking a new approach at Allele for distribution of this protein, and here we will describe the history of the protein and some of the factors that led us down this path.

mNeonGreen was developed by Dr. Nathan Shaner at Allele Biotechnology and the Scintillon Institute through the directed evolution of a yellow fluorescent protein we offer called LanYFP. LanYFP is a super bright yellow fluorescent protein derived from the Lancelet fish species, characterized by its very high quantum yield, however, in its native state LanYFP is tetrameric. Dr. Shaner was able to monomerize the protein and enhance a number of beneficial properties such as photostability and maturation time. The result is a protein that performs very well in a number of applications, but is also backwards compatible with and equipment for GFP imaging.

Upon publication there was a question of how distribution should be structured. How would we make this protein available to researchers in a simple manner was a very difficult challenge? We also relied heavily on Dr. Shaner’s knowledge and experience in these matters, as he related his experiences to us from his time in Roger Tsien’s lab at UCSD. When the mFruits was published their lab was inundated with requests. The average waiting period was 3 months to receive a protein and they required a dedicated research technician to handle this process. Eventually the mFruits from the Tsien lab were almost exclusively offered through Clontech. Thus we decided that Allele Biotechnology would handle the protein distribution and take a commercial approach to drastically decrease the turnaround time. The next challenge we faced was how to charge for this protein. Due to the cost of developing this protein, which was fully funded by Allele, there is a necessity to recoup our investment and ideally justify further development of research tools, but we also understand the budget constraints every lab now faces. From this line of thinking we conceived our group licensing model; we wanted to limit the charge to $100 per lab. The way this is fiscally justifiable is having every lab in a department or site license the protein at this charge, including access to all related plasmids made by us as well as those generated by other licensed users (Click here for our licensing page). The benefit we see to this is that the protein is licensed for full use at a low cost, and collaboration amongst one’s colleagues is not only permissible, it’s encouraged. We saw this as a win-win situation. We would recoup our cost and invest in further fluorescent protein research, and our protein costs would not be a barrier to research and innovation.

The granting of a license to use but not distribute material is not unique to commercial sources. Although academic material transfer agreements typically contain specific language forbidding distribution of received material beyond the recipient laboratory, some researchers choose to disregard these provisions. Unfortunately through this action they are disrespecting the intellectual property rights of the original researchers as well as violating the terms of the legal contract they signed in order to receive the material. We believe most researchers choose to respect the great deal of effort that goes into the creation of research tools for biology and do not distribute any material received from other labs without their express permission. However for a company that funds its own basic research our focus is often on the former example rather than the latter. We believe that this focus artificially drives up the costs of licensing a fluorescent protein and obtaining the plasmid, thus we have chosen to believe researchers will respect our intellectual property as long as we are reasonable in our distribution which is something we have truly striven for.

Additionally we believe the broad-range usage of a superior, new generation FP is an opportunity to advocate newer technologies that can be enabled by mNeonGreen, together with a number of Allele’s other fluorescent proteins (such as the photoconvertible mClavGR2, and mMaple). These new imaging technologies are called super resolution imaging (MRI). They provide researchers with a much finer resolution of cellular structures, protein molecule localizations, and protein-protein interaction information. We have started the construction of a dedicated webpage to provide early adopters with practical and simple guidance, click here to visit our super resolution imaging portal.

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Monday, April 29th, 2013 Fluorescent proteins 3 Comments

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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DNA Repair Pathway Factors in Cell-Based Screening for Restoring Patients’ Sensitivity to Cancer Therapies

Cancers undergoing therapies may develop resistance to treatment. Many current cancer treatments, such as cisplatin, function by creating DNA damage, particularly to fast-dividing cells, i.e., most cancer cells. These treatments may be rendered ineffective by DNA-damage response pathways. Cancer resistance to therapies may come from increased activity in nonhomologous end joining, decreased functions of mismatch repair, or reactivation of the Fanconi anemia (FA)/BRCA DNA-damage response pathway, etc. Ironically the loss of function of some of these DNA-damage repair factors may have partially caused the cancer formation in the first place. Regaining their functions in cancer cells possibly contribute to drug resistance. Molecules that disrupt FA/BRCA pathway or other DNA-damage responses could be used to help restore therapy sensitivity.

Like many proteins that function in DNA-damage repair complexes, FANCD2, a member of the FA pathway factor group, is targeted towards chromatin following damage to DNA in a process called foci formation. There have been recent studies that monitored the foci formation of GFP-FANCD2 in small molecule library screening and identified inhibitors to FANCD2 as candidates for a cancer therapy sensitizer. The assays can be improved in a number of ways. There are fluorescent proteins (FPs) that are much brighter than EGFP for increased sensitivity. For instance, the monomeric green FP mWasabi is about 2-3 fold brighter than EGFP, with narrower emission peak, and is more stable under acidic environment. The newly developed lancelet YFP (LanYFP, developed/introduced by Allele Biotech) is astonishingly 10 times brighter than EGFP. Since it has a longer excitation and emission wavelength, it should inherently have a better signal to noise/background ratio compared to EGFP because cells autofluoresce less in long wavelengths. The improved brightness would also help in this respect. The fold difference between foci and LanYFP background will be the same as EGFP, but the contrast will still probably be better because of less autofluorescent background and significantly higher fluorescence reading in foci.

Other factors that may be used as a screening target when fused to effective FPs may probably include:

1) Homologous recombination (HR)
a. End Resection
MRN complex (MRE11, RAD50, NBS1)
b. Synapsis
c. DNA synthesis
DNA polymerase delta, PCNA

2) Nonhomologous End Joining (NHEJ)
Ku70/Ku80, DNA-PK, Ligase IV, XRCC4, XLF

3) Fanconi Anemia Pathway

    New Product of the Week 101110-101710:

Puromycin-resistant versions of lanRFP (red fluorescent protein from lancelet) for mammalian expression, just became available this week. ABP-FP-RCNCS1P, ABP-FP-RNNCS1P

    Promotion of the Week 101110-101710:

30% off the brightest ever lancelet YFP, ABP-FP-YPNCS10, $349 reduced to $244.3 for this week’s orders only.

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Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins 1 Comment

Brightest Ever Fluorescent Protein

LanYFP, identified from lancelet (also known as amphioxus, e.g. Branchiostoma floridae), has been found to have the following properties:

Excitation 513nm
Emission 524nm
Quantum yield 0.95
Extinction coefficient 150,000
pKa ~3.5
Salt insensitive 0-500mM NaCl

LanYFP has a brightness of 143! For comparison, the brightness of the previously known brightest FPs is 95 for tdTomato, and 34 for commonly used EGFP.

Allele already has been exclusively providing the brightest cyan FP in mTFP1 (brightness of 54); and the brightest green FP in mWasabi (brightness of 56). The confirmation of LanYFP as the brightest ever FP is a major milestone of Allele’s research and development efforts in the fluorescent protein field. We are currently monomerizing LanYFP and another lancelet protein, LanRFP. Once completed, the new proteins should definitely be the FPs of choice for in vivo imaging and FRET with unprecedented utilities.

Promotion of the week 062010-061610: Validated Rex1 Promoter Reporter Lentiviral Particles-1 Vial for $149.00 (ABP-SC-RREX2R1). Save $59 if place an order this week! http://www.allelebiotech.com/shopcart/index.php?c=200&sc=34

New product of the week, recombinant mTFP1, mWasabi, LanYFP, LanRFP, $159 for 125 ug, compare price for 100ug vs 125ug in other companies’ offers, you will know that you are getting a good deal from Allele.

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Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010 Fluorescent proteins No Comments

Fluorescent Protein-Based Assay Development

This blog is a preview of what is to be launched as a new Service Group. Allele Biotech is restructuring its CRO capabilities in the assay development area by combining its fast expanding fluorescent protein portfolio, viral vector and packaging expertise, as well as newly granted patents in shRNA. The focus of this post is fluorescent protein in biosensor and screening assays. A modified version will be used as the landing page for the FB-Based Assay Development Service.


Originally cloned from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria and subsequently from many other marine organisms, fluorescent proteins (FPs) spanning the entire visual spectrum have become some of the most widely used genetically encoded tags. Unlike traditional labeling methods, FPs may be used to specifically label virtually any protein of interest in a living cell with minimal perturbation to its endogenous function. Genes encoding FPs alone or as fusions to a protein of interest may be introduced to cells by a number of different methods, including simple plasmid transfection or viral transduction. Once expressed, FPs are easily detected with standard fluorescence microscopy equipment.

Factors that should be taken into account when designing an FP-based imaging experiment include the desired wavelength(s) for detection, the pH environment of the tagged protein, the total required imaging time, and the expression level or dynamic range required for detection of promoter activity or tagged protein. Individual FPs currently available to the research community vary considerably in their photostability, pH sensitivity, and overall brightness, and so FPs must be chosen with care to maximize the likelihood of success in a particular experimental context.

    FPs as fusion tags:

Use of FPs as fusion tags allows visualization of the dynamic localization of the tagged protein in living cells. For such applications, the cDNA of a protein of interest is attached in-frame to the coding sequence for the desired FP, and both are put under the control of a promoter appropriate to the experimental context (typically CMV for high-level expression, though other promoters may be desirable if overexpression of your protein of interest is suspected of producing artifacts). The most basic uses for fluorescent protein fusions include tracking of specific organelles (fusions to short organelle targeting signals) or cytoskeletal structures (fusions to actin or tubulin, for example). More advanced uses include tracking receptors or exported proteins. In most cases, it is critical that the FP used for fusion tagging be fully monomeric, as any interaction between fusion tags is likely to produce artifacts, some of which may be hard to recognize in the absence of other controls. While in most cases FP fusions do not interfere with normal protein function, whenever possible, FP fusion proteins should be validated by immunostaining the corresponding endogenous protein in non-transfected cells and verifying similar patterns of localization.

    FPs as expression reporters:

FPs are highly useful as quantitative expression reporters. By driving the expression of an FP gene by a specific promoter of interest, it is possible to produce an optical readout of promoter activity. Use of the brightest possible FP ensures the best dynamic range for such an experiment. Because dynamic localization is not generally an issue for expression reporter applications, it is possible to use non-monomeric FPs for this purpose, opening up additional possibilities for multiple wavelength imaging. In order to obtain more reliable quantitative data and to correct for likely variations between individual cells in expression reporter experiments, the use of two spectrally distinct (e.g. green and red) FPs is advisable. By driving expression of one FP with a constitutive promoter and a second FP with the promoter of interest, the ratio of the two signals provides a quantitative readout of relative activity. Averaged over many cells, this technique should provide statistical power necessary for quality expression level experiments. Because FPs normally have a very slow turnover rate in mammalian cells, it may be desirable to add a degradation tag to your FP to enhance temporal resolution when measuring highly dynamic promoter activity.

New Product of the Week 03-08-10 to 03-14-10: mWasabi 2A or IRES dual expression vectors (http://www.allelebiotech.com/shopcart/index.php?c=216&sc=34) ABP-FP-W2A10, orWIRES10

Promotion of the Week 03-08-10 to 03-14-10: for a limited time on Thursday, to be announced on our Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Diego-CA/Allele-Biotechnology-and-Pharmaceuticals-Inc/78331924957#!/allele.biotech?ref=profile), a strikingly low price will be honored for a commonly used lab reagent or equipment. This is the second week of the follow-us-to-the-basement promotion.

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Wednesday, March 10th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins, Open Forum No Comments