Visualization of GFP-expressing tumors and metastasis in vivo

Biotechniques. 2001 May;30(5):1016-22, 1024-6. doi: 10.2144/01305bi01.


We have developed mouse models of metastatic cancer with genetically fluorescent tumors that can be imaged in fresh tissue, in situ, as well as externally. To achieve this capability, we have transduced the green fluorescent protein (GFP) gene, cloned from the bioluminescent jellyfish Aequorea victoria, into a series of human and rodent cancer cell lines that were selected in vitro to stably express GFP in vivo after transplantation to metastatic rodent models. Techniques were also developed for transduction of tumors by GFP in vivo. With this fluorescent tool, we detected and visualized for the first time tumors and metastasis in fresh viable tissue or in situ in host organs down to the single-cell level. GFP tumors on the colon, prostate, breast, brain, liver, lymph nodes, lung, pancreas, bone, and other organs can also be visualized externally, transcutaneously by quantitative whole-body fluorescence optical imaging. Real-time tumor and metastatic growth and angiogenesis and inhibition by representative drugs can be imaged and quantified for rapid antitumor, antimetastatic, and antiangiogenesis drug screening. The GFP-transfected tumor cells enabled a fundamental advance in the visualization of tumor growth and metastasis in real time in vivo.

MeSH terms

  • 3T3 Cells
  • Animals
  • Bone Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Bone Neoplasms / secondary
  • Brain Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • CHO Cells
  • Cricetinae
  • Diagnostic Imaging
  • Female
  • Fluorescence
  • Gene Expression*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics*
  • Lung Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Male
  • Melanoma / chemistry
  • Melanoma / metabolism
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating / chemistry
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins