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1.  Genetic and spectrally distinct in vivo imaging: embryonic stem cells and mice with widespread expression of a monomeric red fluorescent protein 
BMC Biotechnology  2005;5:20.
DsRed the red fluorescent protein (RFP) isolated from Discosoma sp. coral holds much promise as a genetically and spectrally distinct alternative to green fluorescent protein (GFP) for application in mice. Widespread use of DsRed has been hampered by several issues resulting in the inability to establish and maintain lines of red fluorescent protein expressing embryonic stem cells and mice. This has been attributed to the non-viability, or toxicity, of the protein, probably as a result of its obligate tetramerization. A mutagenesis approach directing the stepwise evolution of DsRed has produced mRFP1, the first true monomer. mRFP1 currently represents an attractive autofluorescent reporter for use in heterologous systems.
We have used embryonic stem cell-mediated transgenesis to evaluate mRFP1 in embryonic stem cells and mice. We find that mRFP1 exhibits the most spatially homogenous expression when compared to the native (tetrameric) and variant dimeric forms of DsRed. High levels of mRFP1 expression do not affect cell morphology, developmental potential or viability and fertility of animals. High levels of widespread mRFP1 expression are maintained in a constitutive manner in embryonic stem cells in culture and in transgenic animals. We have used various optical imaging modalities to visualize mRFP1 expressing cells in culture, in embryos and adult mice. Moreover co-visualization of red, green and cyan fluorescent cells within a sample is easily achieved without the need for specialized methodologies, such as spectral deconvolution or linear unmixing.
Fluorescent proteins with excitation and/or emission profiles in the red part of the visible spectrum represent distinct partners, or longer wavelength substitutes for GFP. Not only do DsRed-based RFPs provide a genetically and spectrally distinct addition to the available repertoire of autoflorescent proteins, but by virtue of their spectral properties they permit deeper tissue imaging. Our work in generating CAG::mRFP1 transgenic ES cells and mice demonstrates the developmental neutrality of mRFP1 in an organismal context. It paves the way for the use of DsRed-based monomeric RFPs in transgenic and gene targeted approaches which often necessitate spatially and/or temporally restricted reporter expression. Moreover animals of the CAG::mRFP1 transgenic strain serve as a source of RFP tagged tissue for the derivation of cell lines and explant, transplant and embryo chimera experiments.
PMCID: PMC1192791  PMID: 15996270
2.  Dynamic in vivo imaging and cell tracking using a histone fluorescent protein fusion in mice 
BMC Biotechnology  2004;4:33.
Advances in optical imaging modalities and the continued evolution of genetically-encoded fluorescent proteins are coming together to facilitate the study of cell behavior at high resolution in living organisms. As a result, imaging using autofluorescent protein reporters is gaining popularity in mouse transgenic and targeted mutagenesis applications.
We have used embryonic stem cell-mediated transgenesis to label cells at sub-cellular resolution in vivo, and to evaluate fusion of a human histone protein to green fluorescent protein for ubiquitous fluorescent labeling of nucleosomes in mice. To this end we have generated embryonic stem cells and a corresponding strain of mice that is viable and fertile and exhibits widespread chromatin-localized reporter expression. High levels of transgene expression are maintained in a constitutive manner. Viability and fertility of homozygous transgenic animals demonstrates that this reporter is developmentally neutral and does not interfere with mitosis or meiosis.
Using various optical imaging modalities including wide-field, spinning disc confocal, and laser scanning confocal and multiphoton excitation microscopy, we can identify cells in various stages of the cell cycle. We can identify cells in interphase, cells undergoing mitosis or cell death. We demonstrate that this histone fusion reporter allows the direct visualization of active chromatin in situ. Since this reporter segments three-dimensional space, it permits the visualization of individual cells within a population, and so facilitates tracking cell position over time. It is therefore attractive for use in multidimensional studies of in vivo cell behavior and cell fate.
PMCID: PMC544401  PMID: 15619330
3.  Embryonic stem cells and mice expressing different GFP variants for multiple non-invasive reporter usage within a single animal 
BMC Biotechnology  2002;2:11.
Non-invasive autofluorescent reporters have revolutionized lineage labeling in an array of different organisms. In recent years green fluorescent protein (GFP) from the bioluminescent jellyfish Aequoria Victoria has gained popularity in mouse transgenic and gene targeting regimes [1]. It offers several advantages over conventional gene-based reporters, such as lacZ and alkaline phosphatase, in that its visualization does not require a chromogenic substrate and can be realized in vivo. We have previously demonstrated the utility and developmental neutrality of enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) in embryonic stem (ES) cells and mice [2].
In this study we have used embryonic stem (ES) cell-mediated transgenesis to test the enhanced cyan fluorescent protein (ECFP) and enhanced yellow fluorescent protein (EYFP), two mutant and spectrally distinct color variants of wild type (wt) GFP. We have also tested DsRed1, the novel red fluorescent protein reporter recently cloned from the Discostoma coral by virtue of its homology to GFP. To this end, we have established lines of ES cells together with viable and fertile mice having widespread expression of either the ECFP or EYFP GFP-variant reporters. However, we were unable to generate equivalent DsRed1 lines, suggesting that DsRed1 is not developmentally neutral or that transgene expression cannot be sustained constitutively. Balanced (diploid <-> diploid) and polarized (tetraploid <-> diploid) chimeras comprising combinations of the ECFP and EYFP ES cells and/or embryos, demonstrate that populations of cells expressing each individual reporter can be distinguished within a single animal.
GFP variant reporters are unique in allowing non-invasive multi-spectral visualization in live samples. The ECFP and EYFP-expressing transgenic ES cells and mice that we have generated provide sources of cells and tissues for combinatorial, double-tagged recombination experiments, chimeras or transplantations.
PMCID: PMC116589  PMID: 12079497

Results 1-3 (3)