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September 30, 2002
Volume 80, Number 39
CENEAR 80 39 p. 8
ISSN 0009-2347


Coral Color Shift Applied To Cells


The distinct colors of the neurons shown are due to a new fluorescent protein that allows a single neuron to be uniquely delineated among a mass of neurons, according to Atsushi Miyawaki and coworkers at the Institute of Physical & Chemical Research and the Brain Science & Life Technology Research Foundation, both in Japan. The researchers isolated the protein from a stony coral and subsequently characterized and cloned it [Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci. USA, 99, 12651 (2002)]. They have named the protein Kaede, after the Japanese word for maple leaf.

After introducing Kaede into neurons, the researchers focused ultraviolet light on just one cell for 10 seconds. Within three minutes, the region of the cell that was originally green turned red. The unilluminated cells remained green. Violet light also works.

The red color is stable under usual aerobic conditions for months. Its overall intensity increases with the length of exposure to UV or violet light until all of the green chromophores are transformed. Thus multiple cells can be distinguished on the basis of the extent of color change from green to red. Miyawaki and coworkers suggest that the photoconversion of Kaede may be one of the reasons for the variety of colors found among stony coral.



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