How can we see proteins in living cells that aren’t visible even with a microscope? This was a question scientists were asking until the discovery of a protein that emits green fluorescence when exposed to UV light. The green fluorescent protein (GFP), originally found inside bioluminescent jellyfish, was first inserted into E. coli bacteria cells in 1994. Since then, scientists have been able to use the protein to observe active processes within living cells.
The Conversation’s Petra Kiviniemi chronicles this revolutionary discovery–from the first scientists who studied biolumniscent jellyfish to the researchers who were able to isolate and transplant the protein’s gene into a plant cell. In 2008, team leader Osamu Shimomura and two other scientists who were involved in the research won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
Research methods employing GFP have become one of the most widely used by plant cell biologist. Combined with the other techniques such as fluorescent stains and a powerful range of microscopes, GFP has enabled us to build a clearer picture of protein function in cells than ever before. As with the first experiments using bacteria and flatworms, plant biologists use the GFP gene fused to genes for proteins of interest and insert this DNA into the plant cells. As this is carried out in living tissue, the movement of the protein inside of the cell, as well as the initial location, can be imaged and analysed. For example, we can label membrane proteins in order to see and understand how cellular membranes move in real time.
Read the full, original story here: “How glow-in-the-dark jellyfish revolutionized plant biology”