In vivo imaging of light-emitting probes

J Biomed Opt. 2001 Oct;6(4):432-40. doi: 10.1117/1.1413210.


In vivo imaging of cells tagged with light-emitting probes, such as firefly luciferase or fluorescent proteins, is a powerful technology that enables a wide range of biological studies in small research animals. Reporters with emission in the red to infrared (>600 nm) are preferred due to the low absorption in tissue at these wavelengths. Modeling of photon diffusion through tissue indicates that bioluminescent cell counts as low as a few hundred can be detected subcutaneously, while approximately 10(6) cells are required to detect signals at approximately 2 cm depth in tissue. Signal-to-noise estimates show that cooled back-thinned integrating charge coupled devices (CCDs) are preferred to image-intensified CCDs for this application, mainly due to their high quantum efficiency (approximately 85%) at wavelengths >600 nm where tissue absorption is low. Instrumentation for in vivo imaging developed at Xenogen is described and several examples of images of mice with bioluminescent cells are presented.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diagnostic Imaging / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases*
  • Luminescent Measurements
  • Luminescent Proteins*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pneumonia / diagnosis


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luciferases