Background: Fluorescence imaging at high spectral resolution allows the simultaneous recording of multiple fluorophores without switching optical filters, which is especially useful for time-lapse analysis of living cells. The collected emission spectra can be used to distinguish fluorophores by a computation analysis called linear unmixing. The availability of accurate reference spectra for different fluorophores is crucial for this type of analysis. The reference spectra used by plant cell biologists are in most cases derived from the analysis of fluorescent proteins in solution or produced in animal cells, although these spectra are influenced by both the cellular environment and the components of the optical system. For instance, plant cells contain various autofluorescent compounds, such as cell wall polymers and chlorophyll, that affect the spectral detection of some fluorophores. Therefore, it is important to acquire both reference and experimental spectra under the same biological conditions and through the same imaging systems.
Results: Entry clones (pENTR) of fluorescent proteins (FPs) were constructed in order to create C- or N-terminal protein fusions with the MultiSite Gateway recombination technology. The emission spectra for eight FPs, fused C-terminally to the A- or B-type cyclin dependent kinases (CDKA;1 and CDKB1;1) and transiently expressed in epidermal cells of tobacco (Nicotiana benthamiana), were determined by using the Olympus FluoView™ FV1000 Confocal Laser Scanning Microscope. These experimental spectra were then used in unmixing experiments in order to separate the emission of fluorophores with overlapping spectral properties in living plant cells.
Conclusions: Spectral imaging and linear unmixing have a great potential for efficient multicolor detection in living plant cells. The emission spectra for eight of the most commonly used FPs were obtained in epidermal cells of tobacco leaves and used in unmixing experiments. The generated set of FP Gateway entry vectors represents a valuable resource for plant cell biologists.