Going live: a comparative analysis of the suitability of the RFP derivatives RedStar, mCherry and tdTomato for intravital and in vitro live imaging of Plasmodium parasites

Biotechnol J. 2009 Jun;4(6):895-902. doi: 10.1002/biot.200900035.


Fluorescent proteins have proven to be important tools for in vitro live imaging of parasites and for imaging of parasites within the living host by intravital microscopy. We observed that a red fluorescent transgenic malaria parasite of rodents, Plasmodium berghei-RedStar, is suitable for in vitro live imaging experiments but bleaches rapidly upon illumination in intravital imaging experiments using mice. We have therefore generated two additional transgenic parasite lines expressing the novel red fluorescent proteins tdTomato and mCherry, which have been reported to be much more photostable than first- and second-generation red fluorescent proteins including RedStar. We have compared all three red fluorescent parasite lines for their use in in vitro live and intravital imaging of P. berghei blood and liver parasite stages, using both confocal and wide-field microscopy. While tdTomato bleached almost as rapidly as RedStar, mCherry showed improved photostability and was bright in all experiments performed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Data Interpretation, Statistical
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Liver / parasitology
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Plasmodium berghei / genetics
  • Plasmodium berghei / metabolism*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein