Fluorescent Proteins from the Oceans: Marine Macromolecules as Advanced Imaging Tools for Biomedical Research

  • Edward G. Smith
  • Cecilia D’Angelo
  • Franz Oswald
  • G. Ulrich Nienhaus
  • J. Wiedenmann
Reference work entry


Fluorescent proteins (FPs) of the green fluorescent protein (GFP)-like protein family are not only responsible for the spectacular colors of some reef corals, but they can be also found in several other marine invertebrate taxa. The chromophore of these proteins resides in the center of an 11-stranded β-barrel and is formed by autocatalytic reactions in the presence of oxygen. In some proteins, photochemical reactions are involved in the maturation of the chromophore. The variability of the chromophore structures and the interactions with the surrounding protein scaffold are responsible for the diverse emission colors, ranging from cyan to green and yellow to red. FPs develop their fluorescence also upon expression in recombinant cells which allows their use as genetically encoded markers. Application examples include the labeling of cells, cellular compartment or proteins, studies of gene activity, and sensor studies. Recently, photoactivatable FPs enabled live-cell imaging with a resolution beyond the diffraction barrier of optical microscopy. Nevertheless, before their potential as advanced markers can be fully exploited, FPs often need to undergo extensive protein engineering to alter some detrimental properties such as the tendency to form stable multimers.


Green Fluorescent Protein Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer Emission Color Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer Efficiency Oligomerization Degree 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



J.W. acknowledges funding by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) (Grant Wi1990/2-1); the Network Fluorescence Applications in Biotechnology and Life Sciences, FABLS, Australia; the Landesstiftung Baden-Württemberg (Elite Postdoctoral Program); the Natural Environment Research Council, UK (NE/G009643/1; NE/I01683X/1); and the University of Southampton. G.U.N. was supported by the DFG and the State of Baden-Württemberg through the Center for Functional Nanostructures, by DFG grant NI 291/9 and by the Baden-Württemberg Stiftung. E.G.S is funded by a NERC-studentship.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward G. Smith
    • 1
  • Cecilia D’Angelo
    • 1
  • Franz Oswald
    • 2
  • G. Ulrich Nienhaus
    • 3
    • 4
  • J. Wiedenmann
    • 1
  1. 1.National Oceanography Centre SouthamptonUniversity of SouthamptonSouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Department of Internal Medicine IUniversity of UlmUlmGermany
  3. 3.Center for Functional Nanostructures, Karlsruhe Institute of TechnologyKarlsruheGermany
  4. 4.Department of PhysicsUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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