A research team captured ultrafast changes in fluorescent proteins between “dark” and “light” states.
The crystal jellyfish swims off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and can illuminate the waters when disturbed. That glow comes from proteins that absorb energy and then release it as bright flashes.
To track many of life’s activities, biologists took a cue from this same jellyfish.
Scientists collected one of the proteins found in the sea creatures, green fluorescent protein (GFP), and engineered a molecular light switch that would glow or remain dark depending on specific experimental conditions. The glowing labels are attached to molecules in living cells so researchers can highlight them during imaging experiments. They use these fluorescent markers to understand how a cell responds to changes in its environment, identify which molecules interact within a cell and track the effects of genetic mutations.
Picture: Aequorea victoria, also called the crystal jelly, is a bioluminescent jellyfish that lives near the Pacific coast of North America. (Gary Kavanagh/iStockphoto.com)