Green fluorescent protein (GFP) from a jellyfish, Aequorea victoria, and its mutants are widely used in biomedical studies as fluorescent markers. In spite of the enormous efforts of academia and industry toward generating its red fluorescent mutants, no GFP variants with emission maximum at more than 529 nm have been developed during the 15 years since its cloning. Here, we used a new strategy of molecular evolution aimed at generating a red-emitting mutant of GFP. As a result, we have succeeded in producing the first GFP mutant that substantially matures to the red-emitting state with excitation and emission maxima at 555 and 585 nm, respectively. A novel, nonoxidative mechanism for formation of the red chromophore in this mutant that includes a dehydration of the Ser65 side chain has been proposed. Model experiments showed that the novel dual-color GFP mutant with green and red emission is suitable for multicolor flow cytometry as an additional color since it is clearly separable from both green and red fluorescent tags.
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