Sergey A. Lukyanov

A major breakthrough in GFP applications came when Sergey Lukyanov found some GFP-like proteins in corals. No one before Lukyanov had tried looking for GFP-like proteins in corals because corals do not bioluminesce (that is give off light using chemical energy like fireflies do). Lukyanov also found a red fluorescent protein (called DsRed). His findings resulted in the discovery of many new GFP-like proteins in non-bioluminescent and sometimes even non-fluorescent marine organisms.

Here is a quote from his own web-site ” We were lucky to clone genes for GFP-like proteins from non-bioluminescent Anthozoa for the first time. Fortune really smiled on us: in just a few months after the work was started we cloned the first GFP from the sea anemone Anemonia majano . In comparison to many other marine coelenterates, working on reef Anthozoa is particularly convenient since one can readily buy the specimens for several dollars in aquarium shops throughout the world. We did not organize expeditions to collect our first samples, but found brightly fluorescent and colored sea anemones and corallimorphs (mushroom anemones) in Moscow instead. Shortly after the publication of our paper, other groups reported cloning of GFP-like proteins from Anthozoa species. At present, it is widely accepted that vivid fluorescent and non-fluorescent coloration of reef Anthozoa is mainly determined by GFP homologs. “

DsRed and GFP (courtesy Clontech); Dsred is normally tetrameric, but monomeric forms are now available (see monomeric DsRed on right, courtesy Clontech).

In August 2007 Lukyanov reported a bright, fast folding fluorescent protein that emits light in the far-red. The protein is named Katushka, a dimutive form of Ekaterina after Ekatrina Merzlyak one of the researchers working with Lukyanov. The monomeric form of the protein is called mKate. It was isolated from a brilliant red sea anemone bought in a Moscow petshop by Lukyanov.

Comparison of Katushka and DsRed-Express in Xenopus laevis. Transgenic 2.5 month old Xenopus laevis expressing Katushka (left) and DsRed-Express (right) under the control of muscle actin promoter. The frogs are shown from the dorsal side under white light. (Photo Courtesy of Andrey Zaraisky)