Cellular GFP Toxicity and Immunogenicity: Potential Confounders in in Vivo Cell Tracking Experiments

Stem Cell Rev Rep. 2016 Oct;12(5):553-559. doi: 10.1007/s12015-016-9670-8.


Green Fluorescent protein (GFP), used as a cellular tag, provides researchers with a valuable method of measuring gene expression and cell tracking. However, there is evidence to suggest that the immunogenicity and cytotoxicity of GFP potentially confounds the interpretation of in vivo experimental data. Studies have shown that GFP expression can deteriorate over time as GFP tagged cells are prone to death. Therefore, the cells that were originally marked with GFP do not survive and cannot be accurately traced over time. This review will present current evidence for the immunogenicity and cytotoxicity of GFP in in vivo studies by characterizing these responses.

Keywords: Cell death; Cytotoxicity; Green fluorescent protein (GFP); Immunogenicity; In vivo cell tracking; Reporter gene.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Tracking / adverse effects*
  • Gene Expression / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / adverse effects*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / immunology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / adverse effects
  • Luminescent Proteins / immunology


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins