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We report a serendipitous discovery that extends the impressive catalog of reporter functions performed by green fluorescent protein (GFP) or its derivatives. When two GFP molecules are brought into proximity, changes in the relative intensities of green fluorescence emitted upon excitation at 395 vs. 475 nm result. These spectral changes provide a sensitive ratiometric index of the extent of self-association that can be exploited to quantitatively image homo-oligomerization or clustering processes of GFP-tagged proteins in vivo. The method, which we term proximity imaging (PRIM), complements fluorescence resonance energy transfer between a blue fluorescent protein donor and a GFP acceptor, a powerful method for imaging proximity relationships between different proteins. However, unlike fluorescence resonance energy transfer (which is a spectral interaction), PRIM depends on direct contact between two GFP modules, which can lead to structural perturbations and concomitant spectral changes within a module. Moreover, the precise spatial arrangement of the GFP molecules within a given dimer determines the magnitude and direction of the spectral change. We have used PRIM to detect FK1012-induced dimerization of GFP fused to FK506-binding protein and clustering of glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored GFP at cell surfaces.


Journal article


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A

Publication Date





12312 - 12316


Amino Acid Sequence, Base Sequence, DNA Primers, Energy Transfer, Green Fluorescent Proteins, HeLa Cells, Humans, Luminescent Proteins, Molecular Sequence Data, Peptides, Spectrometry, Fluorescence