Original Paper

Molecular Genetics and Genomics

, Volume 268, Issue 2, pp 160-168

Renilla luciferase-Aequorea GFP (Ruc-GFP) fusion protein, a novel dual reporter for real-time imaging of gene expression in cell cultures and in live animals

  •  Y. WangAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA
  • ,  Y. YuAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA
  • ,  S. ShabahangAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA
  • ,  G. WangAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA
  • ,  A. SzalayAffiliated withDepartment of Biochemistry, Loma Linda University, Loma Linda, CA 92350, USA

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Abstract.

Light-emitting reporter proteins play an increasing role in the study of gene expression in vitro and in vivo. Here we present a ruc-gfp fusion gene construct generated by fusing a cDNA for Renilla luciferase (ruc) in-frame with a cDNA encoding the 'humanized' GFP (gfp) from Aequorea. A plasmid containing the fusion gene construct was successfully transformed into, and expressed in, mammalian cells. The transformed cells exhibited both Renilla luciferase activity in the presence of coelenterazine and GFP fluorescence upon excitation with UV light. Spectrofluorometry of cells containing the Ruc-GFP fusion protein, in the absence of wavelengths capable of exciting GFP fluorescence but in the presence of the luciferase substrate, coelenterazine, showed an emission spectrum with two peaks at 475 nm and 508 nm. These two peaks correspond to the emission maximum of Renilla luciferase at 475 nm and that of GFP at 508 nm. The peak at 508 nm generated in the presence of coelenterazine alone (without UV excitation) is the result of intramolecular energy transfer from Renilla luciferase to Aequorea GFP. Southern analysis of genomic DNA purified from transformed Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to metaphase chromosomes confirmed the integration of the ruc-gfp fusion gene on a single chromosome. The bifunctional Ruc-GFP fusion protein allows the detection of gene expression at the single-cell level based on green fluorescence, and in a group of cells based on luminescence emission. Furthermore, animal experiments revealed that light emission from the Ruc-GFP fusion protein can be detected externally in the organs or tissues of live animals bearing the gene construct.

Renilla luciferase Aequorea GFP (Ruc-GFP) fusion protein Reporter gene Renilla luciferase Aequorea GFP Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH)