Genetically encoded indicators of cellular calcium dynamics based on troponin C and green fluorescent protein

J Biol Chem. 2004 Apr 2;279(14):14280-6. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M312751200. Epub 2004 Jan 24.


Genetic calcium probes offer tremendous potential in the fields of neuroscience, cell biology, and pharmaceutical screening. Previously, ratiometric and non-ratiometric indicators of cellular calcium dynamics have been described that consist of mutants of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as fluorophores and calmodulin as calcium-binding moiety in several configurations. However, these calmodulin-based types of probes have a series of deficiencies, such as reduced dynamic ranges, when expressed within transgenic organisms and lack of calcium sensitivity in certain targetings. We developed novel types of calcium probes based on troponin C variants from skeletal and cardiac muscle. These indicators have ratio changes up to 140%, K(d)s ranging from 470 nm to 29 microm, and improved subcellular targeting properties. We targeted the indicators to the plasma membrane of HEK293 cells and primary hippocampal neurons. Upon long lasting depolarization, submembrane calcium levels in hippocampal neurons were found to be in equilibrium with bulk cytosolic calcium levels, suggesting no standing gradient persists from the membrane toward the cytosol. We expect that such novel indicators using specialized calcium sensing proteins will be minimally interacting with the cellular biochemical machinery.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Chickens
  • Cloning, Molecular / methods
  • Fluorescent Dyes*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Hippocampus
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents / metabolism
  • Kidney / cytology
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Muscle, Skeletal
  • Myocardium
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Rats
  • Transgenes
  • Troponin C / genetics*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Troponin C
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Calcium