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Fluorescent proteins for mouse embryo imaging

Fluorescent proteins have led to numerous discoveries in biology and have become so important that the work on the original green fluorescent protein won a Nobel prize last year. In the last decade or so, researchers have added many new colors to the original green fluorescent protein, have fine tuned these proteins to make them brighter and easier to use, and have introduced new techniques using fluorescent protein characteristics that were modified or even discovered.  

With so many new developments I was glad to see that researchers from the Sloan-Kettering Institute in New York have published an excellent review paper in Biotechnology Trends that puts the most important information tied to fluorescent proteins in one place.  The review somewhat focuses on mouse embryo imaging, but doesn't skip over the history or the basics.

The writers include a helpful table detailing the excitation/emission, oliogmeric state, commercial availability and reference for almost 30 of most common ones. I have read the original publications on many of these proteins but did'nt realize just how many "common" ones there were until seeing this list. I found myself clicking on several of the references to remind me which research groups were involved in development or discover of the various fluorescent proteins. 

The authors believe that combining fluorescent proteins with mouse genetics is essential for unraveling mechanisms involved in regulating embryonic development. Thus, they detail studies several applications related to mouse imaging and point out that development of mouse strains for live imaging has been a limiting step in many applications.

The authors do include discussion of some alternative technologies such as quantum dots and small molecule probes, but seem to think that fluorescent proteins are the way of the future, at least for mouse embryo imaging. I think that quantum dots are quite promising for imaging and are often easier to use than fluorescent proteins. 

Do you think quantum dots will eventually replace fluorescent proteins?

Trends in Biotechnology paper: Live-imaging fluorescent proteins in mouse embryos: multi-dimensional, multi-spectral perspectives



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