Biotech Updates

Glowing Marine Organism Could Help in Human Biotech Applications

July 9, 2014

Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography reported the structural components involved in fluorescence brightness of amphioxus, a primitive marine organism. The results are published in Nature's Scientific Reports, an open-access journal.

The researchers found that only a few key structural differences at the nanoscale allows the sea creature to emit different levels of brightness. The differences were found to be linked to changes in stiffness around the animal's "chromophore pocket," the area of proteins responsible for molecular transformation of light and light output intensity.

"We discovered that some of the amphioxus green fluorescent proteins (GFPs) qare able to transform blue light into green light with 100 percent efficiency (current engineered GFPs - traditionally rooted in the Cnidarian phylum - only reach 60 to 80 percent efficiency), which combines with other properties of light absorbance to make the amphioxus GFPs about five times brighter than current commercially available GFPs, resulting in effect to a huge difference," said Dimitri Deheyn, one of the authors. "It is also interesting that the same animal will also express similar GFPs with an efficiency of about 1,000 times less," he added.

According to the authors, the study provides insight for industries looking to maximize brightness of natural fluorescence - the process of transformation of blue "excitation" light into green "emission" light - including applications in biotechnology such as adapting fluorescence for biomedical protein tracers and for tracking the expression of specific genes in the human body.

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