Combinatorial marking of cells and organelles with reconstituted fluorescent proteins

Cell. 2004 Oct 1;119(1):137-44. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2004.09.012.


Expression of GFP and other fluorescent proteins depends on cis-regulatory elements. Because these elements rarely direct expression to specific cell types, GFP production cannot always be sufficiently limited. Here we show that reconstitution of GFP, YFP, and CFP previously split into two polypeptides yields fluorescent products when coexpressed in C. elegans. Because this reconstitution involves two components, it can confirm cellular coexpression and identify cells expressing a previously uncharacterized promoter. By choosing promoters whose expression patterns overlap for a single cell type, we can produce animals with fluorescence only in those cells. Furthermore, when one partial GFP polypeptide is fused with a subcellularly localized protein or peptide, this restricted expression leads to the fluorescent marking of cellular components in a subset of cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Bacterial Proteins / genetics
  • Bacterial Proteins / metabolism
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / cytology
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / genetics*
  • Caenorhabditis elegans / metabolism*
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Leucine Zippers / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Nervous System / cytology
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Neurons / cytology
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Organelles / genetics
  • Organelles / metabolism*
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Staining and Labeling / methods*


  • Bacterial Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • yellow fluorescent protein, Bacteria