Fluorescent protein tags are fundamental tools used to visualize gene products and analyze their dynamics in vivo. Recent advances in genome editing have expedited the precise insertion of fluorescent protein tags into the genomes of diverse organisms. These advances expand the potential of in vivo imaging experiments and facilitate experimentation with new, bright, photostable fluorescent proteins. Most quantitative comparisons of the brightness and photostability of different fluorescent proteins have been made in vitro, removed from biological variables that govern their performance in cells or organisms. To address the gap, we quantitatively assessed fluorescent protein properties in vivo in an animal model system. We generated transgenic Caenorhabditis elegans strains expressing green, yellow, or red fluorescent proteins in embryos and imaged embryos expressing different fluorescent proteins under the same conditions for direct comparison. We found that mNeonGreen was not as bright in vivo as predicted based on in vitro data but is a better tag than GFP for specific kinds of experiments, and we report on optimal red fluorescent proteins. These results identify ideal fluorescent proteins for imaging in vivo in C. elegans embryos and suggest good candidate fluorescent proteins to test in other animal model systems for in vivo imaging experiments.
© 2016 Heppert et al. This article is distributed by The American Society for Cell Biology under license from the author(s). Two months after publication it is available to the public under an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported Creative Commons License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0).