Green Fluorescent Protein as a Second Selectable Marker for Selection of High Producing Clones From Transfected CHO Cells

Gene. 2000 Jan 25;242(1-2):201-7. doi: 10.1016/s0378-1119(99)00524-7.


Mammalian cells are often used for the expression of recombinant proteins. The process of screening transfected cells randomly for high producing clones is tedious and time consuming. We evaluated using green fluorescent protein (GFP) for selection of high producing clones by fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) to reduce screening effort. We expressed neurotrophin-3 (NT3), deoxyribonuclease (DNase), or vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) with GFP in Chinese hamster ovary cells. The vector expressed the desired secreted protein and the selectable marker, dihydrofolate reductase, in one expression unit and the intracellular GFP in a second expression unit. Transfected cells were grown in selection medium and sorted by FACS. High fluorescence clones were obtained and found to produce high amounts of the desired protein; VEGF productivity correlated well with GFP fluorescence in 48 clones. Further studies demonstrated that productivity correlated very well with RNA of the desired protein. For comparison, we randomly picked and screened 144 VEGF clones, and the highest producing VEGF clone obtained produced 0.7 pg/cell/day. In contrast, the highest producing VEGF clone obtained by FACS sorting produced 4.4 pg/cell/day. FACS sorting therefore selected high producing clones efficiently. Since an assay for the desired protein is not required, high producing clones for a protein of unknown function can be obtained by FACS sorting followed by measuring the RNA level of the desired protein in the highly fluorescent clones.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CHO Cells / metabolism
  • Cell Separation
  • Clone Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / genetics
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Lymphokines / genetics
  • Neurotrophin 3 / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Transfection
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Lymphokines
  • Neurotrophin 3
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins