Molecular spies for bioimaging--fluorescent protein-based probes

Mol Cell. 2015 May 21;58(4):632-43. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2015.03.002.


Convergent advances in optical imaging and genetic engineering have fueled the development of new technologies for biological visualization. Those technologies include genetically encoded indicators based on fluorescent proteins (FPs) for imaging ions, molecules, and enzymatic activities "to spy on cells," as phrased by Roger Tsien, by sneaking into specific tissues, cell types, or subcellular compartments, and reporting on specific intracellular activities. Here we review the current range of unimolecular indicators whose working principle is the conversion of a protein conformational change into a fluorescence signal. Many of the indicators have been developed from fluorescence resonance energy transfer- and single-FP-based approaches.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer
  • Fluorescence*
  • Fluorescent Dyes / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Luminescent Measurements / methods
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Molecular Imaging / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Luminescent Proteins