The glimmering green of St Patrick’s Day is not only significant for the Irish community. Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) has emerged as one of the most versatile (and beautiful) biological research tools. First isolated in the 1960s by Osamu Shimomura from the Aequorea victoria jellyfish, the protein was found to fluoresce in green when exposed to ultraviolet blue light. The true value of GFP, however, was not revealed until the 1990s. By combining the gene that produces GFP with the DNA of C. Elegans, Martin Chalfie designed a luminous genetic tag. Researchers can hook this up to a gene of interest, then sit back and watch a huge variety of cellular processes. Here, GFP (bright streaks) highlights activity of the alpha-actin gene in one-day old zebrafish embryo muscle cells. The Nobel Prize-winning discovery of GFP has shone a new light on the workings of diseases from Alzheimer’s to HIV.
Written by Anthony Lewis
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.