Fluorescent proteins and their applications in imaging living cells and tissues

Physiol Rev. 2010 Jul;90(3):1103-63. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00038.2009.


Green fluorescent protein (GFP) from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria and its homologs from diverse marine animals are widely used as universal genetically encoded fluorescent labels. Many laboratories have focused their efforts on identification and development of fluorescent proteins with novel characteristics and enhanced properties, resulting in a powerful toolkit for visualization of structural organization and dynamic processes in living cells and organisms. The diversity of currently available fluorescent proteins covers nearly the entire visible spectrum, providing numerous alternative possibilities for multicolor labeling and studies of protein interactions. Photoactivatable fluorescent proteins enable tracking of photolabeled molecules and cells in space and time and can also be used for super-resolution imaging. Genetically encoded sensors make it possible to monitor the activity of enzymes and the concentrations of various analytes. Fast-maturing fluorescent proteins, cell clocks, and timers further expand the options for real time studies in living tissues. Here we focus on the structure, evolution, and function of GFP-like proteins and their numerous applications for in vivo imaging, with particular attention to recent techniques.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cytological Techniques*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Fluorescence
  • Genetic Variation
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Histological Techniques*
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Proteins* / chemistry
  • Luminescent Proteins* / metabolism
  • Molecular Structure


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins