Green-fluorescent proteins in Caribbean corals

Mazel, Charles H., Michael P. Lesser, Maxim Y. Gorbunov, Thomas M. Barry, Julianne H. Farrell, Kevin D. Wyman, Paul G. Falkowski

Limnol. Oceanogr., 48(1_part_2), 2003, 402-411 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2003.48.1_part_2.0402

ABSTRACT: Fluorescent pigments in several Indo-Pacific and Caribbean anthozoans have recently been identified as proteins related to the green-fluorescent protein (GFP) of the hydromedusa Aequorea victoria. Here we show that GFP is widely distributed in many Caribbean species. The fluorescence excitation and emission spectra for the pigment are similar to those reported elsewhere for coral and noncoral GFP and the fluorescence quantum yield is estimated to be 35%. Spectral and molecular characterization of the isolated protein clearly show it to be GFP, and laboratory and in situ fluorescence measurements and Western blot analysis show that it is widespread. Bathymetric studies of GFP content using Western blots for the ecologically important congeneric corals Montastraea faveolata and Montastraea cavernosa show that there is no significant correlation between depth and GFP concentration. Nucleotide sequence data of GFP from M. faveolata and M. cavernosa show 88.2% sequence homology with each other and 46.4% homology with A. victoria GFP, whereas the percent homology with A. victoria at the amino acid level was 31.1 and 28.4% for M. cavernosa and M. faveolata, respectively, and 82.7% with each other. Measurements of reflectance and of the excitation spectrum for chlorophyll fluorescence in GFP-containing corals indicate that GFP absorption, emission, and reflection have negligible impact on the level of solar radiation reaching the zooxanthellae and therefore play no role in coral photosynthesis by either addition or removal of photons.

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