Ever since its discovery, GFP or green fluorescent protein, has been widely used in cell and molecular biology laboratories due to its versatility and effectiveness. This powerful research tool was first discovered in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, and expresses its trademark green fluorescence when exposed to ultraviolet light. Whether it is used as an imaging tool in research labs or a fun agar art activity in classrooms, there is no doubt that this protein has revolutionized the science world.
In jellyfish, GFP has the ability to emit green light if it interacts with another protein called aequorin. When the photoprotein aequorin is activated by a release of calcium ions (Ca2+), it emits blue light. The blue light produced from the aequorin triggers the GFP molecules to become excited and releases energy through emitting green light. Similarly, in experiments, when GFP is exposed to UV light or blue light it emits a bright green light.
Fluorescent proteins are not only present in jellyfish. These proteins can be found in many other animals and plants, but are most commonly found in aquatic species. Scientists think that some of the main reasons animals have evolved to be bioluminescent are: to attract mates for reproduction, to use it as a protection mechanism against predators, and to lure prey. GFP has come a long way over the years. Now, more than 40 years after its initial discovery, GFP has been modified to express a multitude of colors by mutating specific amino acids in its protein sequence. Some of these colors include: yellow, red, and blue. GFP has also been engineered to be brighter and to emit for longer periods of time.
This small fluorescent protein is widely used in many research applications. GFP is commonly used as a protein fluorescent tag, which makes tracking protein purification a simpler process. It can also help in cell selection, where it acts as a marker indicating which cells have successfully taken up a plasmid. Overall, it is a tagging method, that allows scientists to observe living cells and biological mechanisms in real-time, under a microscope.
The applications of GFP don’t end here! Check out some of our Edvo-Kits to learn more about GFP!