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Green Fluorescent Protein: What Is This Thing?!

2 minutes

What is this thing? This is GFP or green fluorescent protein. OK. Actually, this is E. coli expressing a lot of GFP, but bear with me for a minute. Green fluorescent protein is a hugely important tool in biology. Originally, from a jellyfish known as aequorea victoria, it is a protein that absorbs blue light and emits green light. Described in 1994 by Martin Chalfie, it has become an important tool in biology for marking things. Say that you're studying a gene, and you know that it's present in the little C. elegans worms that you're working with, but you don't know which cells turn the gene on and which cells leave the gene off. You can fuse GFP to your gene of interest so that when cells turn that gene on, they would glow green. Or if having that GFP stuck to your gene product could pose a problem, you could also just put the GFP gene in with all of the regulatory information of the gene you're trying to study so that if that gene would get turned on, now GFP gets turned on. Or maybe you want to put a gene into a cell type that you're working with, so you could also put GFP in with it so that if your cell glows, you know that you got your gene in. Or maybe you want to prototype a protocol or you want to try a pilot study and you want to do it on a gene that has a very clear phenotype, GFP. And this is all barely the tip of the fluorescent iceberg. Because even though this protein is originally from jellyfish, we can now put it into almost any organism, from E. coli to plants to mice, making it a hugely useful tool. And while having one reporter gene is good, having many different colors is even better. So now, scientists made lots of little tweaks to GFP, which make proteins that glow even brighter green, or blue, or yellow. And they've also started using proteins from other things, like corals, to get reds, and purples, and oranges. This rainbow of proteins allows us to mark multiple different things at one time, and also gives us the ability to make some pretty beautiful bacterial paintings. But more on that next week. Go forth and do science.


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Host Alex Dainis discusses GFP (Green Fluorescent Protein), and its importance in scientific studies. GFP is a green fluorescent protein found in jellyfish. Scientists use GFP in biology to mark particular genes in various experiments, and it provides a direct look into the inner workings of cells.

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Runtime: 2 minutes

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