High variation of fluorescence protein maturation times in closely related Escherichia coli strains

PLoS One. 2013 Oct 14;8(10):e75991. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075991. eCollection 2013.


Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are widely used in biochemistry, biology and biophysics. For quantitative analysis of gene expression FPs are often used as marking molecules. Therefore, sufficient knowledge of maturation times and their affecting factors is of high interest. Here, we investigate the maturation process of the FPs GFP and mCherry expressed by the three closely related Escherichia coli strains of the Colicin E2 system, a model system for colicinogenic interaction. One strain, the C strain produces Colicin, a toxin to which the S strain is sensitive, and against which the R strain is resistant. Under the growth conditions used in this study, the S and R strain have similar growth rates, as opposed to the C strain whose growth rate is significantly reduced due to the toxin production. In combination with theoretical modelling we studied the maturation kinetics of the two FPs in these strains and could confirm an exponential and sigmoidal maturation kinetic for GFP and mCherry, respectively. Our subsequent quantitative experimental analysis revealed a high variance in maturation times independent of the strain studied. In addition, we determined strain dependent maturation times and maturation behaviour. Firstly, FPs expressed by the S and R strain mature on similar average time-scales as opposed to FPs expressed by the C strain. Secondly, dependencies of maturation time with growth conditions are most pronounced in the GFP expressing C strain: Doubling the growth rate of this C strain results in an increased maturation time by a factor of 1.4. As maturation times can vary even between closely related strains, our data emphasize the importance of profound knowledge of individual strains' maturation times for accurate interpretation of gene expression data.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Colicins / metabolism
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development
  • Escherichia coli / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Plasmids / metabolism
  • Time Factors


  • Colicins
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • red fluorescent protein
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins

Grant support

This work was supported by DFG grants RA655/5-1 and LE2484/4-1, the Nano Initiative Munich (NIM) and the Center for Nanoscience (CeNS). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.