RNA mimics of green fluorescent protein

Science. 2011 Jul 29;333(6042):642-6. doi: 10.1126/science.1207339.


Green fluorescent protein (GFP) and its derivatives have transformed the use and analysis of proteins for diverse applications. Like proteins, RNA has complex roles in cellular function and is increasingly used for various applications, but a comparable approach for fluorescently tagging RNA is lacking. Here, we describe the generation of RNA aptamers that bind fluorophores resembling the fluorophore in GFP. These RNA-fluorophore complexes create a palette that spans the visible spectrum. An RNA-fluorophore complex, termed Spinach, resembles enhanced GFP and emits a green fluorescence comparable in brightness with fluorescent proteins. Spinach is markedly resistant to photobleaching, and Spinach fusion RNAs can be imaged in living cells. These RNA mimics of GFP provide an approach for genetic encoding of fluorescent RNAs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / chemistry*
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide / metabolism*
  • Benzyl Compounds / chemistry*
  • Benzyl Compounds / metabolism*
  • Biomimetics
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cytoplasmic Granules / metabolism
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • Fluorescence*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Imidazolines / chemistry*
  • Imidazolines / metabolism*
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Nucleic Acid Conformation
  • Photobleaching
  • Protein Binding
  • RNA, Untranslated / metabolism
  • SELEX Aptamer Technique
  • Spectrometry, Fluorescence
  • Sucrose / pharmacology


  • 3,5-difluoro-4-hydroxybenzylidene imidazolinone
  • Aptamers, Nucleotide
  • Benzyl Compounds
  • Imidazolines
  • RNA, Untranslated
  • enhanced green fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Sucrose