The green fluorescent protein as a marker to visualize plant mitochondria in vivo

Plant J. 1997 Mar;11(3):613-21. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-313x.1997.11030613.x.


To determine how to utilize the green fluorescent protein (GFP) as a marker for subcellular localization and as a label for plant mitochondria in vivo, transgenic suspension cells and tobacco plants expressing GFP with and without a mitochondrial localization signal were generated. The first GFP form used, GFP1, is easily observable in cells with low autofluorescence, such as suspension cells or trichomes, but masked in green tissue. For the visualization of GFP in cells and tissues with high autofluorescence, such as leaf, the use of a very strong promoter (35S35SAMV), a highly expressed modified mGFP4 coding region and a brighter mutant form of GFP (S65T) was necessary. Confocal or two-photon laser scanning microscopy reveal a distinct subcellular localization of the fluorescence in cells expressing GFP or coxIVGFP. In cells expressing untargeted GFP, fluorescence accumulates in the nucleoplasm but is also distributed throughout the cytoplasm. It is excluded from vacuoles, nucleoli and from round bodies that are likely to be leucoplasts. In contrast, fluorescence is localized specifically to mitochondria in cells expressing coxIVGFP fusion protein as shown by co-localization with a mitochondrial-specific dye. This permits the direct observation of mitochondria and mitochondrial movements in living plant cells and tissues throughout plant development. Three-dimensional reconstruction of individual cells can give additional information about the distribution and numbers of mitochondria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cells, Cultured
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genetic Markers
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Luminescent Proteins / analysis
  • Luminescent Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Microscopy, Confocal / methods
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Mutagenesis, Site-Directed
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Plants, Toxic
  • Point Mutation
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / analysis
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • Rhizobium
  • Tobacco / metabolism
  • Transfection / methods


  • Genetic Markers
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins