A monomeric photoconvertible fluorescent protein for imaging of dynamic protein localization

J Mol Biol. 2010 Sep 3;401(5):776-91. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2010.06.056. Epub 2010 Jul 13.


The use of green-to-red photoconvertible fluorescent proteins (FPs) enables researchers to highlight a subcellular population of a fusion protein of interest and to image its dynamics in live cells. In an effort to enrich the arsenal of photoconvertible FPs and to overcome the limitations imposed by the oligomeric structure of natural photoconvertible FPs, we designed and optimized a new monomeric photoconvertible FP. Using monomeric versions of Clavularia sp. cyan FP as template, we employed sequence-alignment-guided design to create a chromophore environment analogous to that shared by known photoconvertible FPs. The designed gene was synthesized and, when expressed in Escherichia coli, found to produce green fluorescent colonies that gradually switched to red after exposure to white light. We subjected this first-generation FP [named mClavGR1 (monomeric Clavularia-derived green-to-red photoconvertible 1)] to a combination of random and targeted mutageneses and screened libraries for efficient photoconversion using a custom-built system for illuminating a 10-cm Petri plate with 405-nm light. Following more than 15 rounds of library creation and screening, we settled on an optimized version, known as mClavGR2, that has eight mutations relative to mClavGR1. Key improvements of mClavGR2 relative to mClavGR1 include a 1.4-fold brighter red species, 1.8-fold higher photoconversion contrast, and dramatically improved chromophore maturation in E. coli. The monomeric status of mClavGR2 has been demonstrated by gel-filtration chromatography and the functional expression of a variety of mClavGR2 chimeras in mammalian cells. Furthermore, we have exploited mClavGR2 to determine the diffusion kinetics of the membrane protein intercellular adhesion molecule 1 both when the membrane is in contact with a T-lymphocyte expressing leukocyte-function-associated antigen 1 and when it is not. These experiments clearly establish that mClavGR2 is well suited for rapid photoconversion of protein subpopulations and subsequent tracking of dynamic changes in localization in living cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Directed Molecular Evolution
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutagenesis
  • Red Fluorescent Protein
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins