It's cheap to be colorful. Anthozoans show a slow turnover of GFP-like proteins

FEBS J. 2007 May;274(10):2496-505. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2007.05785.x. Epub 2007 Apr 10.


Pigments homologous to the green fluorescent protein (GFP) contribute up to approximately 14% of the soluble protein content of many anthozoans. Maintenance of such high tissue levels poses a severe energetic penalty to the animals if protein turnover is fast. To address this as yet unexplored issue, we established that the irreversible green-to-red conversion of the GFP-like pigments from the reef corals Montastrea cavernosa (mcavRFP) and Lobophyllia hemprichii (EosFP) is driven by violet-blue radiation in vivo and in situ. In the absence of photoconverting light, we subsequently tracked degradation of the red-converted forms of the two proteins in coral tissue using in vivo spectroscopy and immunochemical detection of the post-translational peptide backbone modification. The pigments displayed surprisingly slow decay rates, characterized by half-lives of approximately 20 days. The slow turnover of GFP-like proteins implies that the associated energetic costs for being colorful are comparatively low. Moreover, high in vivo stability makes GFP-like proteins suitable for functions requiring high pigment concentrations, such as photoprotection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / chemistry*
  • Anthozoa / radiation effects
  • Color
  • Darkness
  • Kinetics
  • Light
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Proteins / radiation effects
  • Pigments, Biological / metabolism*
  • Pigments, Biological / radiation effects
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Pigments, Biological