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1.  Robotics and Dynamic Image Analysis for Studies of Gene Expression in Plant Tissues 
Gene expression in plant tissues is typically studied by destructive extraction of compounds from plant tissues for in vitro analyses. The methods presented here utilize the green fluorescent protein (gfp) gene for continual monitoring of gene expression in the same pieces of tissues, over time. The gfp gene was placed under regulatory control of different promoters and introduced into lima bean cotyledonary tissues via particle bombardment. Cotyledons were then placed on a robotic image collection system, which consisted of a fluorescence dissecting microscope with a digital camera and a 2-dimensional robotics platform custom-designed to allow secure attachment of culture dishes. Images were collected from cotyledonary tissues every hour for 100 hours to generate expression profiles for each promoter. Each collected series of 100 images was first subjected to manual image alignment using ImageReady to make certain that GFP-expressing foci were consistently retained within selected fields of analysis. Specific regions of the series measuring 300 x 400 pixels, were then selected for further analysis to provide GFP Intensity measurements using ImageJ software. Batch images were separated into the red, green and blue channels and GFP-expressing areas were identified using the threshold feature of ImageJ. After subtracting the background fluorescence (subtraction of gray values of non-expressing pixels from every pixel) in the respective red and green channels, GFP intensity was calculated by multiplying the mean grayscale value per pixel by the total number of GFP-expressing pixels in each channel, and then adding those values for both the red and green channels. GFP Intensity values were collected for all 100 time points to yield expression profiles. Variations in GFP expression profiles resulted from differences in factors such as promoter strength, presence of a silencing suppressor, or nature of the promoter. In addition to quantification of GFP intensity, the image series were also used to generate time-lapse animations using ImageReady. Time-lapse animations revealed that the clear majority of cells displayed a relatively rapid increase in GFP expression, followed by a slow decline. Some cells occasionally displayed a sudden loss of fluorescence, which may be associated with rapid cell death. Apparent transport of GFP across the membrane and cell wall to adjacent cells was also observed. Time lapse animations provided additional information that could not otherwise be obtained using GFP Intensity profiles or single time point image collections.
PMCID: PMC3144599  PMID: 22157949
2.  Use of Green Fluorescent Protein To Tag and Investigate Gene Expression in Marine Bacteria 
Two broad-host-range vectors previously constructed for use in soil bacteria (A. G. Matthysse, S. Stretton, C. Dandie, N. C. McClure, and A. E. Goodman, FEMS Microbiol. Lett. 145:87–94, 1996) were assessed by epifluorescence microscopy for use in tagging three marine bacterial species. Expression of gfp could be visualized in Vibrio sp. strain S141 cells at uniform levels of intensity from either the lac or the npt-2 promoter, whereas expression of gfp could be visualized in Psychrobacter sp. strain SW5H cells at various levels of intensity only from the npt-2 promoter. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) fluorescence was not detected in the third species, Pseudoalteromonas sp. strain S91, when the gfp gene was expressed from either promoter. A new mini-Tn10-kan-gfp transposon was constructed to investigate further the possibilities of fluorescence tagging of marine bacteria. Insertion of mini-Tn10-kan-gfp generated random stable mutants at high frequencies with all three marine species. With this transposon, strongly and weakly expressed S91 promoters were isolated. Visualization of GFP by epifluorescence microscopy was markedly reduced when S91 (mini-Tn10-kan-gfp) cells were grown in rich medium compared to that when cells were grown in minimal medium. Mini-Tn10-kan-gfp was used to create an S91 chitinase-negative, GFP-positive mutant. Expression of the chi-gfp fusion was induced in cells exposed to N′-acetylglucosamine or attached to chitin particles. By laser scanning confocal microscopy, biofilms consisting of microcolonies of chi-negative, GFP+ S91 cells were found to be localized several microns from a natural chitin substratum. Tagging bacterial strains with GFP enables visualization of, as well as monitoring of gene expression in, living single cells in situ and in real time.
PMCID: PMC106425  PMID: 9647829
3.  Green-to-red photoconvertible fluorescent proteins: tracking cell and protein dynamics on standard wide-field mercury arc-based microscopes 
BMC Cell Biology  2010;11:15.
Green fluorescent protein (GFP) and other FP fusions have been extensively utilized to track protein dynamics in living cells. Recently, development of photoactivatable, photoswitchable and photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (PAFPs) has made it possible to investigate the fate of discrete subpopulations of tagged proteins. Initial limitations to their use (due to their tetrameric nature) were overcome when monomeric variants, such as Dendra, mEos, and mKikGR were cloned/engineered.
Here, we report that by closing the field diaphragm, selective, precise and irreversible green-to-red photoconversion (330-380 nm illumination) of discrete subcellular protein pools was achieved on a wide-field fluorescence microscope equipped with standard DAPI, Fluorescein, and Rhodamine filter sets and mercury arc illumination within 5-10 seconds. Use of a DAPI-filter cube with long-pass emission filter (LP420) allowed the observation and control of the photoconversion process in real time. Following photoconversion, living cells were imaged for up to 5 hours often without detectable phototoxicity or photobleaching.
We demonstrate the practicability of this technique using Dendra2 and mEos2 as monomeric, photoconvertible PAFP representatives fused to proteins with low (histone H2B), medium (gap junction channel protein connexin 43), and high (α-tubulin; clathrin light chain) dynamic cellular mobility as examples. Comparable efficient, irreversible green-to-red photoconversion of selected portions of cell nuclei, gap junctions, microtubules and clathrin-coated vesicles was achieved. Tracking over time allowed elucidation of the dynamic live-cycle of these subcellular structures. The advantage of this technique is that it can be performed on a standard, relatively inexpensive wide-field fluorescence microscope with mercury arc illumination. Together with previously described laser scanning confocal microscope-based photoconversion methods, this technique promises to further increase the general usability of photoconvertible PAFPs to track the dynamic movement of cells and proteins over time.
PMCID: PMC2838829  PMID: 20175925
4.  Epi-Fluorescence Microscopy 
Epi-fluorescence microscopy is available in most life sciences research laboratories, and when optimized can be a central laboratory tool. In this chapter, the epi-fluorescence light path is introduced and the various components are discussed in detail. Recommendations are made for incident lamp light sources, excitation and emission filters, dichroic mirrors, objective lenses, and charge-coupled device (CCD) cameras in order to obtain the most sensitive epi-fluorescence microscope. The even illumination of metal-halide lamps combined with new “hard” coated filters and mirrors, a high resolution monochrome CCD camera, and a high NA objective lens are all recommended for high resolution and high sensitivity fluorescence imaging. Recommendations are also made for multicolor imaging with the use of monochrome cameras, motorized filter turrets, individual filter cubes, and corresponding dyes that are the best choice for sensitive, high resolution multicolor imaging. Images should be collected using Nyquist sampling and should be corrected for background intensity contributions and nonuniform illumination across the field of view. Photostable fluorescent probes and proteins that absorb a lot of light (i.e., high extinction co-efficients) and generate a lot of fluorescence signal (i.e., high quantum yields) are optimal. A neuronal immune-fluorescence labeling protocol is also presented. Finally, in order to maximize the utility of sensitive wide-field microscopes and generate the highest resolution images with high signal-to-noise, advice for combining wide-field epi-fluorescence imaging with restorative image deconvolution is presented.
PMCID: PMC3483677  PMID: 23026996
Epi-fluorescence; CCD camera; Light sources; Filters; Dichroic mirrors; Image collection; Objective lenses; Fluorophore; Fluorescent protein; Deconvolution; 3D rendering
5.  Optimization of flow cytometric detection and cell sorting of transgenic Plasmodium parasites using interchangeable optical filters 
Malaria Journal  2012;11:312.
Malaria remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Flow cytometry-based assays that take advantage of fluorescent protein (FP)-expressing malaria parasites have proven to be valuable tools for quantification and sorting of specific subpopulations of parasite-infected red blood cells. However, identification of rare subpopulations of parasites using green fluorescent protein (GFP) labelling is complicated by autofluorescence (AF) of red blood cells and low signal from transgenic parasites. It has been suggested that cell sorting yield could be improved by using filters that precisely match the emission spectrum of GFP.
Detection of transgenic Plasmodium falciparum parasites expressing either tdTomato or GFP was performed using a flow cytometer with interchangeable optical filters. Parasitaemia was evaluated using different optical filters and, after optimization of optics, the GFP-expressing parasites were sorted and analysed by microscopy after cytospin preparation and by imaging cytometry.
A new approach to evaluate filter performance in flow cytometry using two-dimensional dot blot was developed. By selecting optical filters with narrow bandpass (BP) and maximum position of filter emission close to GFP maximum emission in the FL1 channel (510/20, 512/20 and 517/20; dichroics 502LP and 466LP), AF was markedly decreased and signal-background improve dramatically. Sorting of GFP-expressing parasite populations in infected red blood cells at 90 or 95% purity with these filters resulted in 50-150% increased yield when compared to the standard filter set-up. The purity of the sorted population was confirmed using imaging cytometry and microscopy of cytospin preparations of sorted red blood cells infected with transgenic malaria parasites.
Filter optimization is particularly important for applications where the FP signal and percentage of positive events are relatively low, such as analysis of parasite-infected samples with in the intention of gene-expression profiling and analysis. The approach outlined here results in substantially improved yield of GFP-expressing parasites, and requires decreased sorting time in comparison to standard methods. It is anticipated that this protocol will be useful for a wide range of applications involving rare events.
PMCID: PMC3544587  PMID: 22950515
Malaria; Plasmodium; Optical filter; Fluorescent proteins; Cell sorting; Rare cells
6.  Cost-effective and compact wide-field fluorescent imaging on a cell-phone† 
Lab on a chip  2010;11(2):315-322.
We demonstrate wide-field fluorescent and darkfield imaging on a cell-phone with compact, light-weight and cost-effective optical components that are mechanically attached to the existing camera unit of the cell-phone. For this purpose, we used battery powered light-emitting diodes (LEDs) to pump the sample of interest from the side using butt-coupling, where the pump light was guided within the sample cuvette to uniformly excite the specimen. The fluorescent emission from the sample was then imaged using an additional lens that was positioned right in front of the existing lens of the cell-phone camera. Because the excitation occurs through guided waves that propagate perpendicular to our detection path, an inexpensive plastic colour filter was sufficient to create the dark-field background required for fluorescent imaging, without the need for a thin-film interference filter. We validate the performance of this platform by imaging various fluorescent micro-objects in 2 colours (i.e., red and green) over a large field-of-view (FOV) of ~81 mm2 with a raw spatial resolution of ~20 μm. With additional digital processing of the captured cell-phone images, through the use of compressive sampling theory, we demonstrate ~2 fold improvement in our resolving power, achieving ~10 μm resolution without a trade-off in our FOV. Further, we also demonstrate darkfield imaging of non-fluorescent specimen using the same interface, where this time the scattered light from the objects is detected without the use of any filters. The capability of imaging a wide FOV would be exceedingly important to probe large sample volumes (e.g., >0.1 mL) of e.g., blood, urine, sputum or water, and for this end we also demonstrate fluorescent imaging of labeled white-blood cells from whole blood samples, as well as water-borne pathogenic protozoan parasites such as Giardia Lamblia cysts. Weighing only ~28 g (~1 ounce), this compact and cost-effective fluorescent imaging platform attached to a cell-phone could be quite useful especially for resource-limited settings, and might provide an important tool for wide-field imaging and quantification of various lab-on-a-chip assays developed for global health applications, such as monitoring of HIV+ patients for CD4 counts or viral load measurements.
PMCID: PMC3073081  PMID: 21063582
7.  Effect of Starvation and the Viable-but-Nonculturable State on Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) Fluorescence in GFP-Tagged Pseudomonas fluorescens A506 
The green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene, gfp, of the jellyfish Aequorea victoria is being used as a reporter system for gene expression and as a marker for tracking prokaryotes and eukaryotes. Cells that have been genetically altered with the gfp gene produce a protein that fluoresces when it is excited by UV light. This unique phenotype allows gfp-tagged cells to be specifically monitored by nondestructive means. In this study we determined whether a gfp-tagged strain of Pseudomonas fluorescens continued to fluoresce under conditions under which the cells were starved, viable but nonculturable (VBNC), or dead. Epifluorescent microscopy, flow cytometry, and spectrofluorometry were used to measure fluorescence intensity in starved, VBNC, and dead or dying cells. Results obtained by using flow cytometry indicated that microcosms containing VBNC cells, which were obtained by incubation under stress conditions (starvation at 37.5°C), fluoresced at an intensity that was at least 80% of the intensity of nonstressed cultures. Similarly, microcosms containing starved cells incubated at 5 and 30°C had fluorescence intensities that were 90 to 110% of the intensity of nonstressed cells. VBNC cells remained fluorescent during the entire 6-month incubation period. In addition, cells starved at 5 or 30°C remained fluorescent for at least 11 months. Treatment of the cells with UV light or incubation at 39 or 50°C resulted in a loss of GFP from the cells. There was a strong correlation between cell death and leakage of GFP from the cells, although the extent of leakage varied depending on the treatment. Most dead cells were not GFP fluorescent, but a small proportion of the dead cells retained some GFP at a lower concentration than the concentration in live cells. Our results suggest that gfp-tagged cells remain fluorescent following starvation and entry into the VBNC state but that fluorescence is lost when the cells die, presumably because membrane integrity is lost.
PMCID: PMC92128  PMID: 10919764
8.  Use of green fluorescent protein to visualize the early events of symbiosis between Rhizobium meliloti and alfalfa (Medicago sativa). 
Journal of Bacteriology  1996;178(24):7159-7166.
A gene encoding a variant of green fluorescent protein (GFP) of Aequorea victoria was put under the control of a promoter which is constitutive in Rhizobium meliloti. The heterologous GFP gene was expressed at high levels during all stages of symbiosis, allowing R. meliloti cells to be visualized as they grew in the rhizosphere, on the root surface, and inside infection threads. In addition, nodules that were infected with bacteria which were synthesizing GFP fluoresced when illuminated with blue light. GFP-tagged bacteria could be seen inside infection threads, providing the opportunity to measure the growth rate and determine the patterns of growth of R. meliloti residing inside its host plant.
PMCID: PMC178628  PMID: 8955397
9.  An LED Light Source and Novel Fluorophore Combinations Improve Fluorescence Laparoscopic Detection of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer in Orthotopic Mouse Models 
The aim of this study was to improve fluorescence laparoscopy of pancreatic cancer in an orthotopic mouse model with the use of an LED light source and an optimal fluorophore combination.
Study Design
Human pancreatic cancer models were established with fluorescent FG-RFP, MiaPaca2-GFP, BxPC-3-RFP, and BxPC-3 cancer cells implanted in 6-week-old female athymic mice. Two weeks post-implantation, diagnostic laparoscopy was performed with a Stryker L9000 LED light source or a Stryker X8000 xenon light source 24 hours after tail vein injection of CEA antibodies conjugated with Alexa 488 or Alexa 555. Cancer lesions were detected and localized under each light mode. Intravital images were obtained with the OV-100 Olympus Small Animal Imaging System and Maestro CRI Small Animal Imaging System, serving as a positive control. Tumors were collected for histologic review.
Fluorescence laparoscopy with a 495-nm emission filter and an LED light source enabled real-time visualization of the fluorescence-labeled tumor deposits in the peritoneal cavity. The simultaneous use of different fluorophores (Alexa 488 and Alexa 555) conjugated to antibodies brightened the fluorescence signal, enhancing detection of sub-millimeter lesions without compromising background illumination. Adjustments to the LED light source permitted simultaneous detection of tumor lesions of different fluorescent colors and surrounding structures with minimal autofluorescence.
Using an LED light source with adjustments to the red, blue and green wavelengths, we can simultaneously identify tumor metastases expressing fluorescent proteins of different wavelengths, which greatly enhanced the signal without compromising background illumination. Development of this technology for clinical use can improve staging and treatment of pancreatic cancer.
PMCID: PMC3360832  PMID: 22542065
pancreatic cancer; orthotopic mouse models; fluorescence; laparoscopy; LED light source
10.  Gene Silencing by Gold Nanoshell-Mediated Delivery and Laser-Triggered Release of Antisense Oligonucleotide and siRNA 
ACS nano  2012;6(9):7681-7691.
The approach of RNA interference (RNAi)- using antisense DNA or RNA oligonucleotides to silence activity of a specific pathogenic gene transcript and reduce expression of the encoded protein- is very useful in dissecting genetic function and holds significant promise as a molecular therapeutic. A major obstacle in achieving gene silencing with RNAi technology is the systemic delivery of therapeutic oligonucleotides. Here we demonstrate an engineered gold nanoshell (NS)-based therapeutic oligonucleotide delivery vehicle, designed to release its cargo on demand upon illumination with a near-infrared (NIR) laser. A poly(L)lysine peptide (PLL) epilayer covalently attached to the NS surface (NS-PLL) is used to capture intact, single-stranded antisense DNA oligonucleotides, or alternatively, double-stranded short-interfering RNA (siRNA) molecules. Controlled release of the captured therapeutic oligonucleotides in each case is accomplished by continuous wave NIR laser irradiation at 800 nm, near the resonance wavelength of the nanoshell. Fluorescently tagged oligonucleotides were used to monitor the time-dependent release process and light-triggered endosomal release. A green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing human lung cancer H1299 cell line was used to determine cellular uptake and gene silencing mediated by the NS-PLL carrying GFP gene-specific single-stranded DNA antisense oligonucleotide (AON-GFP), or a double-stranded siRNA (siRNA-GFP), in vitro. Light-triggered delivery resulted in ∼ 47% and ∼49% downregulation of the targeted GFP expression by AON-GFP and siRNA-GFP, respectively. Cytotoxicity induced by both the NS-PLL delivery vector and by laser irradiation is minimal, as demonstrated by a XTT cell proliferation assay.
PMCID: PMC3888232  PMID: 22862291
Plasmon; nanoshell; antisense oligonucleotide; siRNA; Gene therapy; controlled drug release; polylysine
11.  Imaging long distance propagating calcium signals in intact plant leaves with the BRET-based GFP-aequorin reporter 
Calcium (Ca2+) is a second messenger involved in many plant signaling processes. Biotic and abiotic stimuli induce Ca2+ signals within plant cells, which, when decoded, enable these cells to adapt in response to environmental stresses. Multiple examples of Ca2+ signals from plants containing the fluorescent yellow cameleon sensor (YC) have contributed to the definition of the Ca2+ signature in some cell types such as root hairs, pollen tubes and guard cells. YC is, however, of limited use in highly autofluorescent plant tissues, in particular mesophyll cells. Alternatively, the bioluminescent reporter aequorin enables Ca2+ imaging in the whole plant, including mesophyll cells, but this requires specific devices capable of detecting the low amounts of emitted light. Another type of Ca2+ sensor, referred to as GFP-aequorin (G5A), has been engineered as a chimeric protein, which combines the two photoactive proteins from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, the green fluorescent protein (GFP) and the bioluminescent protein aequorin. The Ca2+-dependent light-emitting property of G5A is based on a bioluminescence resonance energy transfer (BRET) between aequorin and GFP. G5A has been used for over 10 years for enhanced in vivo detection of Ca2+ signals in animal tissues. Here, we apply G5A in Arabidopsis and show that G5A greatly improves the imaging of Ca2+ dynamics in intact plants. We describe a simple method to image Ca2+ signals in autofluorescent leaves of plants with a cooled charge-coupled device (cooled CCD) camera. We present data demonstrating how plants expressing the G5A probe can be powerful tools for imaging of Ca2+ signals. It is shown that Ca2+ signals propagating over long distances can be visualized in intact plant leaves and are visible mainly in the veins.
PMCID: PMC3927637  PMID: 24600459
Arabidopsis thaliana; calcium imaging; cooled CCD camera; GFP-aequorin; leaf; long distance calcium signaling; calcium waves; salt stress
12.  Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting of Plant Protoplasts 
High-resolution, cell type-specific analysis of gene expression greatly enhances understanding of developmental regulation and responses to environmental stimuli in any multicellular organism. In situ hybridization and reporter gene visualization can to a limited extent be used to this end but for high resolution quantative RT-PCR or high-throughput transcriptome-wide analysis the isolation of RNA from particular cell types is requisite. Cellular dissociation of tissue expressing a fluorescent protein marker in a specific cell type and subsequent Fluorescence Activated Cell Sorting (FACS) makes it possible to collect sufficient amounts of material for RNA extraction, cDNA synthesis/amplification and microarray analysis.
An extensive set of cell type-specific fluorescent reporter lines is available to the plant research community. In this case, two marker lines of the Arabidopsis thaliana root are used: PSCR::GFP (endodermis) and PWOX5::GFP (quiescent center). Large numbers (thousands) of seedlings are grown hydroponically or on agar plates and harvested to obtain enough root material for further analysis. Cellular dissociation of plant material is achieved by enzymatic digestion of the cell wall. This procedure makes use of high osmolarity-induced plasmolysis and commercially available cellulases, pectinases and hemicellulases to release protoplasts into solution.
FACS of GFP-positive cells makes use of the visualization of the green versus the red emission spectra of protoplasts excited by a 488 nm laser. GFP-positive protoplasts can be distinguished by their increased ratio of green to red emission. Protoplasts are typically sorted directly into RNA extraction buffer and stored for further processing at a later time.
This technique is revealed to be straightforward and practicable. Furthermore, it is shown that it can be used without difficulty to isolate sufficient numbers of cells for transcriptome analysis, even for very scarce cell types (e.g. quiescent center cells). Lastly, a growth setup for Arabidopsis seedlings is demonstrated that enables uncomplicated treatment of the plants prior to cell sorting (e.g. for the cell type-specific analysis of biotic or abiotic stress responses). Potential supplementary uses for FACS of plant protoplasts are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2896036  PMID: 20168296
FACS; plant protoplasts; GFP; cell type-specific; Arabidopsis thaliana; roots
13.  Estrogen-inducible GFP expression patterns in rice (Oryza sativa L.) 
Plant Cell Reports  2010;30(4):529-538.
We investigated estrogen-inducible green fluorescent protein (GFP) expression patterns using an estrogen receptor fused chimeric transcription activator, XVE, in the monocotyledonous model plant rice (Oryza sativa L.). This system has been shown to be an effective chemical-inducible gene expression system in Arabidopsis and has been applied to other plants in order to investigate gene functions or produce marker-free transgenic plants. However, limited information is available on the correlation between inducer concentration and the expression level of the gene induced in monocots. Here, we produced a transgenic rice integrated estrogen-inducible GFP expression vector, pLex:GFP, and investigated dose–response and time-course patterns of GFP induction in rice calli and seedlings for the first time. With 17-β-estradiol treatment at >5 μM, GFP signals were detected in the entire surface of calli within 2 days of culture. Highest GFP signals were extended for 8 days with estradiol treatment at 25 μM. In three-leaf-stage seedlings, GFP signals in the leaves of pLex:GFP-integrated transgenic lines were weaker than those in the leaves of p35S:GFP-integrated transgenic lines. However, GFP signals in the roots of pLex:GFP- and p35S:GFP-integrated transgenic lines were similar with estradiol treatment at >10 μM. With regard to controlling appropriate gene expression, these results might provide helpful indications on estradiol treatment conditions to be used for the XVE system in rice and other monocots.
PMCID: PMC3056999  PMID: 21140152
Estrogen inducible; XVE system; Estradiol; Rice; GFP
14.  Biological Sensor for Sucrose Availability: Relative Sensitivities of Various Reporter Genes 
A set of three sucrose-regulated transcriptional fusions was constructed. Fusions p61RYTIR, p61RYlac, and p61RYice contain the scrR sucrose repressor gene and the promoterless gfp, lacZ, and inaZ reporter genes, respectively, fused to the scrY promoter from Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. Cells of Erwinia herbicola containing these fusions are induced only in media amended with sucrose, fructose, or sorbose. While a large variation in sucrose-dependent reporter gene activity was observed in cells harboring all gene fusions, fusions to the inaZ reporter gene yielded a much wider range of activity and were responsive to lower levels of sucrose than either lacZ or gfp. The lacZ reporter gene was found to be more efficient than gfp, requiring approximately 300-fold fewer cells for a detectable response over all concentrations of sucrose. Similarly, inaZ was found to be more efficient than lacZ, requiring 30-fold fewer cells at 1.45 μM sucrose and 6,100-fold fewer cells at 29 mM sucrose for a quantifiable response. The fluorescence of individual cells containing p61RYTIR was quantified following epifluorescence microscopy in order to relate the fluorescence exhibited by populations of cells in batch cultures with that of individual cells in such cultures. While the mean fluorescence intensity of a population of individual cells increased with increasing concentrations of sucrose, a wide range of fluorescence intensity was seen among individual cells. For most cultures the distribution of fluorescence intensity among individual cells was log-normally distributed, but cells grown in intermediate concentrations of sucrose exhibited two distinct populations of cells, one having relatively low fluorescence and another with much higher fluorescence. When cells were inoculated onto bean leaves, whole-cell ice nucleation and gfp-based biological sensors for sucrose each indicated that the average concentration of sucrose on moist leaf surfaces was about 20 μM. Importantly, the variation in green fluorescent protein fluorescence of biosensor cells on leaves suggested that large spatial variations in sugar availability occur on leaves.
PMCID: PMC92729  PMID: 11229926
15.  Fluorescent sperm in a transparent worm: validation of a GFP marker to study sexual selection 
Sexual selection has initially been thought to occur exclusively at the precopulatory stage in terms of contests among males and female mate choice, but research over the last four decades revealed that it often continues after copulation through sperm competition and cryptic female choice. However, studying these postcopulatory processes remains challenging because they occur internally and therefore are often difficult to observe. In the transparent free-living flatworm Macrostomum lignano, a recently established transgenic line that expresses green fluorescent protein (GFP) in all cell types, including sperm, offers a unique opportunity to non-invasively visualise and quantify the sperm of a GFP-expressing donor inside the reproductive tract of wild-type recipients in vivo. We here test several aspects of the reproductive performance of the transgenic individuals and the accuracy of the techniques involved in assessing the GFP-expressing worms and their sperm. We then show the usefulness of these methods in a study on sperm displacement.
GFP-expressing worms do not differ from wild-type worms in terms of morphology, mating rate and reproductive success. In addition, we show that the GFP signal is reliably and unequivocally expressed by all GFP-expressing individuals observed under epifluorescence illumination. However, the intensity of the GFP signal emitted by sperm of GFP expressing donors can vary (which we show to be at least in part due to sperm ageing) and the GFP marker is inherited according to Mendel’s laws in most, but not all, of the individuals. Nevertheless, we argue these two issues can be addressed with an appropriate experimental design. Finally, we demonstrate the value of the GFP-techniques by comparing the number of GFP-expressing sperm in a wild-type recipient before and after mating with a competing sperm donor, providing clear experimental evidence for sperm displacement in M. lignano. This result suggests that sperm donors can displace previously stored sperm and replace it with their own.
The availability of the GFP-techniques in a transparent organism provide unique opportunities to visualise and quantify internal processes in the female reproductive tract after mating, which opens new avenues in the study of sexual selection.
PMCID: PMC4107727  PMID: 24980980
Cryptic female choice; Fertilisation; Genetic engineering; Sperm competition; Sperm displacement; Sperm labelling; Sperm tracking; Sperm storage; Transgenesis
16.  Light-dependent Translocation of a Phytochrome B-GFP Fusion Protein to the Nucleus in Transgenic Arabidopsis  
The Journal of Cell Biology  1999;145(3):437-445.
Phytochrome is a ubiquitous photoreceptor of plants and is encoded by a small multigene family. We have shown recently that a functional nuclear localization signal may reside within the COOH-terminal region of a major member of the family, phytochrome B (phyB) (Sakamoto, K., and A. Nagatani. 1996. Plant J. 10:859–868). In the present study, a fusion protein consisting of full-length phyB and the green fluorescent protein (GFP) was overexpressed in the phyB mutant of Arabidopsis to examine subcellular localization of phyB in intact tissues. The resulting transgenic lines exhibited pleiotropic phenotypes reported previously for phyB overexpressing plants, suggesting that the fusion protein is biologically active. Immunoblot analysis with anti-phyB and anti-GFP monoclonal antibodies confirmed that the fusion protein accumulated to high levels in these lines. Fluorescence microscopy of the seedlings revealed that the phyB-GFP fusion protein was localized to the nucleus in light grown tissues. Interestingly, the fusion protein formed speckles in the nucleus. Analysis of confocal optical sections confirmed that the speckles were distributed within the nucleus. In contrast, phyB-GFP fluorescence was observed throughout the cell in dark-grown seedlings. Therefore, phyB translocates to specific sites within the nucleus upon photoreceptor activation.
PMCID: PMC2185089  PMID: 10225946
green fluorescent protein; nuclear targeting; photomorphogenesis; phytochrome; signal transduction
17.  The red fluorescent protein eqFP611: application in subcellular localization studies in higher plants 
BMC Plant Biology  2007;7:28.
Intrinsically fluorescent proteins have revolutionized studies in molecular cell biology. The parallel application of these proteins in dual- or multilabeling experiments such as subcellular localization studies requires non-overlapping emission spectra for unambiguous detection of each label. In the red spectral range, almost exclusively DsRed and derivatives thereof are used today. To test the suitability of the red fluorescent protein eqFP611 as an alternative in higher plants, the behavior of this protein was analyzed in terms of expression, subcellular targeting and compatibility with GFP in tobacco.
When expressed transiently in tobacco protoplasts, eqFP611 accumulated over night to levels easily detectable by fluorescence microscopy. The native protein was found in the nucleus and in the cytosol and no detrimental effects on cell viability were observed. When fused to N-terminal mitochondrial and peroxisomal targeting sequences, the red fluorescence was located exclusively in the corresponding organelles in transfected protoplasts. Upon co-expression with GFP in the same cells, fluorescence of both eqFP611 and GFP could be easily distinguished, demonstrating the potential of eqFP611 in dual-labeling experiments with GFP. A series of plasmids was constructed for expression of eqFP611 in plants and for simultaneous expression of this fluorescent protein together with GFP. Transgenic tobacco plants constitutively expressing mitochondrially targeted eqFP611 were generated. The red fluorescence was stably transmitted to the following generations, making these plants a convenient source for protoplasts containing an internal marker for mitochondria.
In plants, eqFP611 is a suitable fluorescent reporter protein. The unmodified protein can be expressed to levels easily detectable by epifluorescence microscopy without adverse affect on the viability of plant cells. Its subcellular localization can be manipulated by N-terminal signal sequences. eqFP611 and GFP are fully compatible in dual-labeling experiments.
PMCID: PMC1904219  PMID: 17553146
18.  Visualization of Intracellular Movement of Vaccinia Virus Virions Containing a Green Fluorescent Protein-B5R Membrane Protein Chimera 
Journal of Virology  2001;75(10):4802-4813.
We produced an infectious vaccinia virus that expressed the B5R envelope glycoprotein fused to the enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP), allowing us to visualize intracellular virus movement in real time. Previous transfection studies indicated that fusion of GFP to the C-terminal cytoplasmic domain of B5R did not interfere with Golgi localization of the viral protein. To determine whether B5R-GFP was fully functional, we started with a B5R deletion mutant that made small plaques and inserted the B5R-GFP gene into the original B5R locus. The recombinant virus made normal-sized plaques and acquired the ability to form actin tails, indicating reversal of the mutant phenotype. Moreover, immunogold electron microscopy revealed that both intracellular enveloped virions (IEV) and extracellular enveloped virions contained B5R-GFP. By confocal microscopy of live infected cells, we visualized individual fluorescent particles, corresponding to IEV in size and shape, moving from a juxtanuclear location to the periphery of the cell, where they usually collected prior to association with actin tails. The fluorescent particles could be seen emanating from cells at the tips of microvilli. Using a digital camera attached to an inverted fluorescence microscope, we acquired images at 1 frame/s. At this resolution, IEV movement appeared saltatory; in some frames there was no net movement, whereas in others movement exceeded 2 μm/s. Further studies indicated that IEV movement was reversibly arrested by the microtubule-depolymerizing drug nocodazole. This result, together with the direction, speed, and saltatory motion of IEV, was consistent with a role for microtubules in intracellular transport of IEV.
PMCID: PMC114235  PMID: 11312352
19.  Producing a Mammalian GFP Expression Vector Containing Neomycin Resistance Gene 
The green fluorescent protein (GFP) was originally isolated from the Jellyfish Aequorea Victoria that fluoresces green when exposed to blue light. GFP protein is composed of 238 amino acids with the molecular mass of 26.9 kD. The GFP gene is frequently used in cellular and molecular biology as a reporter gene. To date, many bacterial, yeast, fungal, plants, fly and mammalian cells, including human, have been created which express GFP. Martin Chalfie, Osamu Shimomura, and Roger Tsien were awarded the 2008 noble prize in chemistry for their discovery and development of GFP. In many studies on mammalian cells, GFP gene is introduced into cells using vector-based systems or a recombinant virus to track the location of a target protein or to study the expression level of the gene of interest, but in these studies there is no selection marker to normalize transfection. According to the importance of neomycin gene as a selection marker in mammalian cells, we aimed to produce a GFP expression vector that contains neomycin gene. GFP gene was separated from pEGFP-N1 vector and was inserted in the back-bone of pCDNA3.1/His/LacZ vector that contained the neomycin gene. The resulted vector contained GFP beside neomycin gene.
PMCID: PMC3558120  PMID: 23407141
Expression; Green Flourescent Protein; Neomycin; Resistance gene; Vector
20.  Live Imaging of Dense-core Vesicles in Primary Cultured Hippocampal Neurons 
Observing and characterizing dynamic cellular processes can yield important information about cellular activity that cannot be gained from static images. Vital fluorescent probes, particularly green fluorescent protein (GFP) have revolutionized cell biology stemming from the ability to label specific intracellular compartments and cellular structures. For example, the live imaging of GFP (and its spectral variants) chimeras have allowed for a dynamic analysis of the cytoskeleton, organelle transport, and membrane dynamics in a multitude of organisms and cell types [1-3]. Although live imaging has become prevalent, this approach still poses many technical challenges, particularly in primary cultured neurons. One challenge is the expression of GFP-tagged proteins in post-mitotic neurons; the other is the ability to capture fluorescent images while minimizing phototoxicity, photobleaching, and maintaining general cell health. Here we provide a protocol that describes a lipid-based transfection method that yields a relatively low transfection rate (~0.5%), however is ideal for the imaging of fully polarized neurons. A low transfection rate is essential so that single axons and dendrites can be characterized as to their orientation to the cell body to confirm directionality of transport, i.e., anterograde v. retrograde. Our approach to imaging GFP expressing neurons relies on a standard wide-field fluorescent microscope outfitted with a CCD camera, image capture software, and a heated imaging chamber. We have imaged a wide variety of organelles or structures, for example, dense-core vesicles, mitochondria, growth cones, and actin without any special optics or excitation requirements other than a fluorescent light source. Additionally, spectrally-distinct, fluorescently labeled proteins, e.g., GFP and dsRed-tagged proteins, can be visualized near simultaneously to characterize co-transport or other coordinated cellular events. The imaging approach described here is flexible for a variety of imaging applications and can be adopted by a laboratory for relatively little cost provided a microscope is available.
PMCID: PMC2762918  PMID: 19488029
21.  Standard Fluorescent Imaging of Live Cells is Highly Genotoxic 
Fluorescence microscopy is commonly used for imaging live mammalian cells. Here, we describe studies aimed at revealing the potential genotoxic effects of standard fluorescence microscopy. To assess DNA damage, a high throughput platform for single cell gel electrophoresis is used (e.g., the CometChip). Light emitted by three standard filters was studied: a) violet light [340–380 nm], used to excite DAPI and other blue fluorophores, b) blue light [460–500 nm] commonly used to image GFP and Calcein AM, and c) green light [528–553], useful for imaging red fluorophores. Results show that exposure of samples to light during imaging is indeed genotoxic even when the selected wavelengths are outside the range known to induce significant levels. Shorter excitation wavelengths and longer irradiation times lead to higher levels of DNA damage. We have also measured DNA damage in cells expressing enhanced green fluorescent protein (GFP) or stained with Calcein AM, a widely used green fluorophore. Data show that Calcein AM leads to a synergistic increase in the levels of DNA damage and that even cells that are not being directly imaged sustain significant DNA damage from exposure to indirect light. The nature of light-induced DNA damage during imaging was assessed using the Fpg glycosylase, an enzyme that enables quantification of oxidative DNA damage. Oxidative damage was evident in cells exposed to violet light. Furthermore the Fpg glycosylase revealed the presence of oxidative DNA damage in blue-light exposed cells for which DNA damage was not detected using standard analysis conditions. Taken together, the results of these studies call attention to the potential confounding effects of DNA damage induced by standard imaging conditions, and identify wavelength, exposure time and fluorophore as parameters that can be modulated to reduce light-induced DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC3677558  PMID: 23650257
fluorescence microscopy; live cell imaging; genotoxicity; comet assay; light exposure; formamidopyrimidine-DNA glycosylase (Fpg)
22.  TRV–GFP: a modified Tobacco rattle virus vector for efficient and visualizable analysis of gene function 
Journal of Experimental Botany  2013;65(1):311-322.
We developed an easy-traceable TRV vector, TRV2-GFP, by tagging a GFP to the coat protein. TRV2-GFP-infected plants could be identified efficiently by GFP monitoring. TRV2-GFP is useful for functional genomics in many plants, especially for non-Solanaceae plants, like rose
Virus-induced gene silencing (VIGS) is a useful tool for functional characterization of genes in plants. Unfortunately, the efficiency of infection by Tobacco rattle virus (TRV) is relatively low for some non-Solanaceae plants, which are economically important, such as rose (Rosa sp.). Here, to generate an easy traceable TRV vector, a green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene was tagged to the 3’ terminus of the coat protein gene in the original TRV2 vector, and the silencing efficiency of the modified TRV–GFP vector was tested in several plants, including Nicotiana benthamiana, Arabidopsis thaliana, rose, strawberry (Fragaria ananassa), and chrysanthemum (Dendranthema grandiflorum). The results showed that the efficiency of infection by TRV–GFP was equal to that of the original TRV vector in each tested plant. Spread of the modified TRV virus was easy to monitor by using fluorescent microscopy and a hand-held UV lamp. When TRV–GFP was used to silence the endogenous phytoene desaturase (PDS) gene in rose cuttings and seedlings, the typical photobleached phenotype was observed in 75–80% plants which were identified as GFP positive by UV lamp. In addition, the abundance of GFP protein, which represented the concentration of TRV virus, was proved to correlate negatively with the level of the PDS gene, suggesting that GFP could be used as an indicator of the degree of silencing of a target gene. Taken together, this work provides a visualizable and efficient tool to predict positive gene silencing plants, which is valuable for research into gene function in plants, especially for non-Solanaceae plants.
PMCID: PMC3883300  PMID: 24218330
Arabidopsis thaliana; gene silencing; Nicotiana benthamiana; Rosa sp.; TRV–GFP; VIGS.
23.  Interaction of the Trans-Frame Potyvirus Protein P3N-PIPO with Host Protein PCaP1 Facilitates Potyvirus Movement 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002639.
A small open reading frame (ORF), pipo, overlaps with the P3 coding region of the potyviral polyprotein ORF. Previous evidence suggested a requirement for pipo for efficient viral cell-to-cell movement. Here, we provide immunoblotting evidence that the protein PIPO is expressed as a trans-frame protein consisting of the amino-terminal half of P3 fused to PIPO (P3N-PIPO). P3N-PIPO of Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) fused to GFP facilitates its own cell-to-cell movement. Using a yeast two-hybrid screen, co-immunoprecipitation assays, and bimolecular fluorescence complementation (BiFC) assays, we found that P3N-PIPO interacts with host protein PCaP1, a cation-binding protein that attaches to the plasma membrane via myristoylation. BiFC revealed that it is the PIPO domain of P3N-PIPO that binds PCaP1 and that myristoylation of PCaP1 is unnecessary for interaction with P3N-PIPO. In PCaP1 knockout mutants (pcap1) of Arabidopsis, accumulation of TuMV harboring a GFP gene (TuMV-GFP) was drastically reduced relative to the virus level in wild-type plants, only small localized spots of GFP were visible, and the plants showed few symptoms. In contrast, TuMV-GFP infection in wild-type Arabidopsis yielded large green fluorescent patches, and caused severe stunting. However, viral RNA accumulated to high level in protoplasts from pcap1 plants indicating that PCaP1 is not required for TuMV RNA synthesis. In contrast to TuMV, the tobamovirus Oilseed rape mosaic virus did not require PCaP1 to infect Arabidopsis plants. We conclude that potyviral P3N-PIPO interacts specifically with the host plasma membrane protein PCaP1 to participate in cell-to-cell movement. We speculate that PCaP1 links a complex of viral proteins and genomic RNA to the plasma membrane by binding P3N-PIPO, enabling localization to the plasmodesmata and cell-to-cell movement. The PCaP1 knockout may contribute to a new strategy for recessive resistance to potyviruses.
Author Summary
The Potyviridae is the largest and most economically important family of plant viruses. A key step in the life cycle of all plant viruses is transport of the viral genome through the plasmodesmata, highly regulated channels that connect cells. While the mechanisms of cell-to-cell movement of many plant viruses have been characterized, our understanding of Potyviridae movement is lacking. The viral RNA genome is transported to the plasmodesmata by a complex of viral proteins including a recently discovered protein, P3N-PIPO which is encoded in two reading frames. The details of this localization process are unclear. Here, we identify a potential missing link that suggests how the potyviral movement complex may anchor to the plasma membrane including in the plasmodesmata. The host protein PCaP1, a divalent cation-binding plasma membrane protein, binds the P3N-PIPO protein of Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV). Both proteins were detected in the plasma membrane and plasmodesmata. Arabidopsis plants lacking PCaP1 allowed TuMV RNA replication but showed inefficient TuMV movement, reduced TuMV accumulation, and had greatly attenuated symptoms. However, these plants allowed normal infection by a tobamovirus. Thus, mutation of the PCaP1 gene may contribute to breeding potyvirus-resistant crops.
PMCID: PMC3325209  PMID: 22511869
24.  Co-inoculation of aflatoxigenic and non-aflatoxigenic strains of Aspergillus flavus to study fungal invasion, colonization, and competition in maize kernels 
A currently utilized pre-harvest biocontrol method involves field inoculations with non-aflatoxigenic Aspergillus flavus strains, a tactic shown to strategically suppress native aflatoxin-producing strains and effectively decrease aflatoxin contamination in corn. The present in situ study focuses on tracking the invasion and colonization of an aflatoxigenic A. flavus strain (AF70), labeled with green fluorescent protein (GFP), in the presence of a non-aflatoxigenic A. flavus biocontrol strain (AF36), to better understand the competitive interaction between these two strains in seed tissue of corn (Zea mays). Corn kernels that had been co-inoculated with GFP-labeled AF70 and wild-type AF36 were cross-sectioned and observed under UV and blue light to determine the outcome of competition between these strains. After imaging, all kernels were analyzed for aflatoxin levels. There appeared to be a population difference between the co-inoculated AF70-GFP+AF36 and the individual AF70-GFP tests, both visually and with pixel count analysis. The GFP allowed us to observe that AF70-GFP inside the kernels was suppressed up to 82% when co-inoculated with AF36 indicating that AF36 inhibited progression of AF70-GFP. This was in agreement with images taken of whole kernels where AF36 exhibited a more robust external growth compared to AF70-GFP. The suppressed growth of AF70-GFP was reflected in a corresponding (upto 73%) suppression in aflatoxin levels. Our results indicate that the decrease in aflatoxin production correlated with population depression of the aflatoxigenic fungus by the biocontrol strain supporting the theory of competitive exclusion through robust propagation and fast colonization by the non-aflatoxigenic fungus.
PMCID: PMC3973917  PMID: 24734028
Aspergillus flavus; biocontrol; green fluorescent protein (GFP); fungal competition; aflatoxin; fluorescence microscopy; corn (Zea mays)
25.  Fluorescence laparoscopy imaging of pancreatic tumor progression in an orthotopic mouse model 
Surgical Endoscopy  2010;25(1):48-54.
The use of fluorescent proteins to label tumors is revolutionizing cancer research, enabling imaging of both primary and metastatic lesions, which is important for diagnosis, staging, and therapy. This report describes the use of fluorescence laparoscopy to image green fluorescent protein (GFP)-expressing tumors in an orthotopic mouse model of human pancreatic cancer.
The orthotopic mouse model of human pancreatic cancer was established by injecting GFP-expressing MiaPaCa-2 human pancreatic cancer cells into the pancreas of 6-week-old female athymic mice. On postoperative day 14, diagnostic laparoscopy using both white and fluorescent light was performed. A standard laparoscopic system was modified by placing a 480-nm short-pass excitation filter between the light cable and the laparoscope in addition to using a 2-mm-thick emission filter. A camera was used that allowed variable exposure time and gain setting. For mouse laparoscopy, a 3-mm 0° laparoscope was used. The mouse’s abdomen was gently insufflated to 2 mm Hg via a 22-gauge angiocatheter. After laparoscopy, the animals were sacrificed, and the tumors were collected and processed for histologic review. The experiments were performed in triplicate.
Fluorescence laparoscopy enabled rapid imaging of the brightly fluorescent tumor in the pancreatic body. Use of the proper filters enabled simultaneous visualization of the tumor and the surrounding structures with minimal autofluorescence. Fluorescence laparoscopy thus allowed exact localization of the tumor, eliminating the need to switch back and forth between white and fluorescence lighting, under which the background usually is so darkened that it is difficult to maintain spatial orientation.
The use of fluorescence laparoscopy permits the facile, real-time imaging and localization of tumors labeled with fluorescent proteins. The results described in this report should have important clinical potential.
PMCID: PMC3003784  PMID: 20533064
Green fluorescent protein; Laparoscopy; Orthotopic model; Nude mice; Pancreatic cancer

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