Interactions between proteins or protein domains can be imaged by fusing them to cyan (CFP) and yellow (YFP) mutants of Green Fluorescent Protein and observing fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET). For example, fusions of CFP, calmodulin, a calmodulin-binding peptide, and YFP are transfectable emission-ratioing Ca2+ indicators with many uses. They are highly suitable for twophoton excitation at 770-810 nm, even at video rates. Applications not possible with previous indicators include detection of submicroscopic domains of Ca2+ by fusion of the indicators to key proteins, and dynamic imaging of Ca2+ in transgenic animals. YFPs have been improved as FRET acceptors by reducing their sensitivity to pH changes. Many other applications of GFP mutants to detect fluctuating protein-protein interactions are underway.
A synthetic alternative to GFPs for protein tagging arises from the ability of membrane-permeant biarsenical dyes to seek out and light up alpha-helical Cys-Cys-X-X-Cys-Cys motifs placed in recombinant proteins in live cells. The new system is much smaller than GFP (6 residues vs. 238), can label internal domains not just N- and C-terminii, and offers novel readouts (e.g. red emission peaking > 600 nm) and better temporal control of the labeling.