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

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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New Frontiers for Research Tool Development in the New Year

Looking into the future of technologies in biology research

Allele Biotech's Green Crystal Ball

Chosen as the Method of the Year 2010 by Nature Method and mentioned in a number of year-end recaps, this is a technology that allows the use of light to precisely (at least in a temporal sense) control engineered proteins within a targeted cell population. For example, by introducing light-activated channelrhodopsins into neurons, one can use a pulse of light to initiate a movement of ion across the cell membrane. The technology, first reported in 2005 then made headlines as a major impact on neurosciences since 2007, is now being combined with other components in controlling a broader array of biological events, such as DNA binding, enzyme activities, etc. Looking forward, a few areas will be more than likely the frontlines of moving optogenetics into more labs:

Additional combinations: The few known channelrhodopsins and their fast growing variations will be combined with more “effecter” domains to control different events. The challenge will be to find ways to use the structural changes or any responses channelrhodopsins have to stimulating lights in order to trigger a reaction in the associated effecter domain.

Tracking mechanisms: A platter of fluorescent proteins (FPs) will be used as an independent tracking method to follow cells being targeted. FPs that have optical spectra that do not interfere with the optogenetic molecules will be tested and established. In addition, FPs with less toxicity, narrower excitation and emission peaks, and more tolerance to different cellular environment will be preferred and eventually set up as standards.

Delivery tools: To bring the optogenetic reagents into cells like neurons researchers will most likely rely on lentiviral vectors in most cases. Other vehicles such as baculovirus, MMLV-based retrovirus, even herpes virus may find broader applications in this field. Pre-packaged lentiviruses and MMLV-retroviruses already contain optogenetic constructs will become popular products.

VHH Antibodies
The small capture polypeptides based on single-domain Camelid antibodies (nanobodies, nano antbodies or nAbs) and similar VHH domains will become much dramatically more popular this year, judging from the significant increase in demands of the only camelid reagent products, GFP-Trap and RFP-Trap, in 2010. There are a number of NIH initiated programs that aim to find capture reagents that eventually target the complete human proteome. One of the key criteria for the current phase of the relevant NIH Director’s Initiative is ability to co-immunoprecipitate. The Human Proteome Organization (HUPO) recently expressed frustration due to the lack of high quality capture reagents necessary to isolate and identify most proteins. HUPO promotes global research on proteins in order to decode the human proteome. From what we have learned from dozens of publications showing the use of GFP-Trap, VHH molecules pulls down GFP-tagged proteins with unprecedented efficiency and purity. VHH antibodies show strong affinity and specificity, at a level superior or comparable to monoclonal antibodies. In addition, VHH antibodies are increasingly appreciated for their capabilities to recognize concave epitopes by their relatively convex-shaped paratopes. VHH nanobodies are small (~12-15 kD), with a limited number of functionally important disulfide bonds, can be expressed very well in E. coli, and are amazingly stable in extreme denaturing conditions such as heat and acid. They have been shown to be better suited for in vivo and trans-cellular membrane delivery than other antibodies. It should not be surprising that one day in the coming years VHH antibodies will be more dominant than monoclonal antibodies.

Super-Resolution Imaging
One of the goals of developing technologies such as photoactivated localization microscopy (PALM) and related super-resolution imaging (SRI) techniques was to achieve electron microscopy (EM) level resolution without using EM. Now new developments show that maybe combining EM and photoactivable FPs would provide more specific and more detailed morphology. It would be anticipated that more photoconvertible FPs will prove to work well for one type of SRI or another. The event that will bring this technology to nearly every cell biology lab is the improvement and availability of necessary instruments that some companies have already begun to commercialize.

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Monomeric Photoconvertible Fluorescent Protein for Imaging of Dynamic Protein Localization

Allele Biotech has just made a news announcement indicating that researchers from Dr. Campbell’s lab at the University of Alberta, Canada, and scientists at Allele Biotech Drs. Nathan Shaner and Jiwu Wang published a paper in the Journal of Molecular Biology on July 5th introducing a new photoconvertible fluorescent protein mClavGR.

The use of green-to-red photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (FPs) enables researchers to highlight a subcellular population of a fusion protein of interest and image its dynamics in live cells. In an effort to enrich the arsenal of photoconvertible FPs and overcome the limitations imposed by the oligomeric structure of the natural photoconvertible FPs, we designed and optimized a new monomeric photoconvertible FP. Furthermore, we have exploited mClavGR2 to determine the diffusion kinetics of the membrane protein intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) both when the membrane is in contact with a T lymphocyte expressing leukocyte function-associated antigen 1 (LFA-1) and when it is not. These experiments clearly establish that mClavGR2 is well suited for rapid photoconversion of protein sub-populations and subsequent tracking of dynamic changes in localization in living cells.

Compared with previously available photoconvertible FPs, mClavGR2 has much improved photostability of the red state under confocal illumination conditions, 3644 over mEOS2’s 2700 and Dendra2’s 2420. Most notable among other advantages of mClavGR2 is its monomeric structure, its highly optimized and relatively rapid folding efficiency, and its high photoconversion effi ciency due to the high pKa of the green state. Its brightness in both the green and the red states is similar to the popular mCherry.

In regard to monomeric state, the monomeric variant of EosFP, known as mEos, was created through the introduction of two point mutations that disrupted the protein-protein interfaces of the tetrameric species. Expression of mEos at temperatures of greater than 30 °C is problematic, but an effectively monomeric tandem dimer variant does express well at 37 °C. mEos2 has been reported to retain some propensity for dimer formation.

We anticipate that this new addition to the toolbox of engineered FPs will be of great utility in imaging of fast protein dynamics in live cells. Experiments to determine whether the advantages of mClavGR2 translate to improved performance in super-resolution imaging applications have been initiated.

Hiofan Hoi(a), Nathan C. Shaner(b), Michael W. Davidson(c), Christopher W. Cairo(a), d, Jiwu Wang(b) and Robert E. Campbell(a)
a University of Alberta, Department of Chemistry, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada T6G 2G2
b Allele Biotechnology, 9924 Mesa Rim Road, San Diego, California 92121
c National High Magnetic Field Laboratory and Department of Biological Science, The Florida State University, 1800 E. Paul Dirac Dr., Tallahassee, Florida 32310
d Alberta Ingenuity Centre for Carbohydrate Science
Received 20 February 2010; revised 15 June 2010; accepted 25 June 2010. Available online 5 July 2010.

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Wednesday, July 7th, 2010 Fluorescent proteins 5 Comments