Dual fluorescent protein reporters for studying cell behaviors in vivo

Authors

  • M. David Stewart,

    1. Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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    • M. David Stewart and Chuan-Wei Jang contributed equally to this study.

  • Chuan-Wei Jang,

    1. Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
    2. Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
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    • M. David Stewart and Chuan-Wei Jang contributed equally to this study.

  • Nicholas W. Hong,

    1. Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Anthony P. Austin,

    1. Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
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  • Richard R. Behringer

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas
    2. Program in Developmental Biology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas
    • Department of Genetics, University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX
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Abstract

Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are useful tools for visualizing live cells and their behaviors. Protein domains that mediate subcellular localization have been fused to FPs to highlight cellular structures. FPs fused with histone H2B incorporate into chromatin allowing visualization of nuclear events. FPs fused to a glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor signal sequence label the plasma membrane, highlighting cellular shape. Thus, a reporter gene containing both types of FP fusions would allow for effective monitoring of cell shape, movement, mitotic stage, apoptosis, and other cellular activities. Here, we report a binary color-coding system using four differently colored FP reporters that generates 16 distinct color codes to label the nuclei and plasma membranes of live cells in culture and in transgenic mice. As an initial test of this system in vivo, the promoter of the human Ubiquitin C (UBC) gene was used to widely express one of the color-code reporters. Widespread expression of the reporter was attained in embryos; however, both male and female transgenic mice were infertile. In contrast, the promoter of the mouse Oct4/Pou5f1 gene linked to two different color-code reporters specifically labeled blastocysts, primordial germ cells, and postnatal germ cells, and these mice were fertile. Time-lapse movies of fluorescently-labeled primordial germs cells demonstrate the utility of the color-code system to visualize cell behaviors. This set of new FP reporters should be a useful tool for labeling distinct cell populations and studying their behaviors in complex tissues in vivo. genesis 47:708–717, 2009. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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