High-performance probes for light and electron microscopy

Nat Methods. 2015 Jun;12(6):568-76. doi: 10.1038/nmeth.3365. Epub 2015 Apr 27.


We describe an engineered family of highly antigenic molecules based on GFP-like fluorescent proteins. These molecules contain numerous copies of peptide epitopes and simultaneously bind IgG antibodies at each location. These 'spaghetti monster' fluorescent proteins (smFPs) distributed well in neurons, notably into small dendrites, spines and axons. smFP immunolabeling localized weakly expressed proteins not well resolved with traditional epitope tags. By varying epitope and scaffold, we generated a diverse family of mutually orthogonal antigens. In cultured neurons and mouse and fly brains, smFP probes allowed robust, orthogonal multicolor visualization of proteins, cell populations and neuropil. smFP variants complement existing tracers and greatly increase the number of simultaneous imaging channels, and they performed well in advanced preparations such as array tomography, super-resolution fluorescence imaging and electron microscopy. In living cells, the probes improved single-molecule image tracking and increased yield for RNA-seq. These probes facilitate new experiments in connectomics, transcriptomics and protein localization.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens
  • Brain Mapping
  • Drosophila
  • Luminescent Proteins / chemistry*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Electron / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Neurons
  • Protein Conformation


  • Antigens
  • Luminescent Proteins

Associated data

  • GENBANK/KR107019
  • GENBANK/KR107020
  • GENBANK/KR107021
  • GENBANK/KR107022
  • GENBANK/KR107023
  • GENBANK/KR107024