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Aequorea victoria ventral view

Researchers identify fluorescent proteins in the body of jellyfish for the first time

This jellyfish makes glowing proteins which were previously unknown to scientists. Nathan Shaner and his colleagues back in 2017 had found something unusual near Herons land. They were snorkeling through the southern coasts of Australia near the Great Barrier Reef and spotted a strange-looking jellyfish. Scientists took the jellyfish and bought it back to the boat and after having a closer look it came to notice that the translucent body of the fish had shot through luminous lines of blue.

Shaner, an optical probe developer at the University of California collected the animal due to his wish as it was blue and wanted to take it home but the team was not looking primarily for jellies however came across one. The team identified the five fluorescent proteins in the body of the jellyfish which were previously unknown. This may lead to the discovery of newer techniques for exploring how genes are expressed in cells and gain the brightest fluorescent protein tag.

Shaner and his team went back to the lab and prepared a sample for analysis and after sequencing its transcriptome, the genes present in the jelly’s body, he was surprised to find several light-producing proteins similar to green fluorescent protein which was being used by scientists for decades to track cell protein and make glow-in-the-dark cats.

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The original protein known as avGEP has led to dozens of bioengineered GFP variants, some of the variants glow in colors like cobalt blue and turquoise. Further analysis revealed that jelly A.australis produces five fluorescent proteins which include two which glow green, two more that are blue and one between yellow and clear when exposed to light. When researchers looked at the original GPF jelly once again, they found genes of previously unknown fluorescent proteins, some had narrow excitation and emission peaks from which they could absorb and emit light at a specified wavelength. It helped in the study of the expression of several genes simultaneously with the help of colors of fluorescent protein tags. AausFP1, the brightest protein was almost five times brighter than GFP, which was enhanced for powerful fluorescence.

Fluorescent proteins have different use depending on what we are trying to study and the brighter the better for everyone as it will hopefully enable people to see things that could not be seen before. AausFP1 is bright and does not lose its glow when exposed to light and can be used for cell imaging for extended amounts of time for continuously up to 2.5 days where normal GFP variant would bleach within few hours.

Joachim Goedhart, a fluorescent protein engineer at the University of Amsterdam says the study is exciting and researchers came back with different variants and that fluorescent protein needs modifications for being useful. Mutations would be required for smaller, brighter and easier manipulations in the cell.

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About the author: Kalpit Veerwal
Kalpit Veerwal is a second year Computer Science undergraduate at IIT Bombay. He is well known for being the only person to score 360/360 in JEE (Main). He is registered in the Limca Book of Records for the same. A blogger in his free time, he has also secured top ranks in various exams held in India and the world.

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