The expression of fluorescent protein (FP) genes as real-time visual markers, both transiently and stably, has revolutionized plant biotechnology. A palette of colors of FPs is now available for use, but the diversity has generally been underutilized in plant biotechnology. Because of the green and far-red autofluorescent properties of many plant tissues and the FPs themselves, red and orange FPs (RFPs, and OFPs, respectfully) appear to be the colors with maximum utility in plant biotechnology. Within the color palette OFPs have emerged as the brightest FP markers in the visible spectra. This study compares several native, near-native and modified OFPs for their “brightness” and fluorescence, therefore, their usability as marker genes in transgenic plant tissues.
The OFPs DsRed2, tdTomato, mOrange and pporRFP were all expressed under the control of the CaMV 35S promoter in agroinfiltration-mediated transient assays in Nicotiana benthamiana. Each of these, as well as endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-targeted versions, were stably expressed in transgenic Nicotiana tabacum and Arabidopsis thaliana. Congruent results were observed between transient and stable assays. Our results demonstrated that there are several adequate OFP genes available for plant transformation, including the new pporRFP, an unaltered tetramer from the hard coral Porites porites. When the tandem dimer tdTomato and the monomeric mOrange were targeted to the ER, dramatic, ca. 3-fold, increase in plant fluorescence was observed.
From our empirical data, and a search of the literature, it appears that tdTomato-ER and mOrange-ER are the two highest fluorescing FPs available as reporters for transgenic plants. The pporRFP is a brightly fluorescing tetramer, but all tetramer FPs are far less bright than the ER-targeted monomers we report here.