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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 Oct 24;97(22):12278-82.

Visualizing gene expression by whole-body fluorescence imaging.

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AntiCancer, Inc., 7917 Ostrow Street, San Diego, CA 92111, USA.


Transgene expression in intact animals now can be visualized by noninvasive techniques. However, the instruments and protocols developed so far have been formidable and expensive. We describe here a system for rapidly visualizing transgene expression in major organs of intact live mice that is simple, rapid, and eminently affordable. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is expressed in the cells of brain, liver, pancreas, prostate, and bone, and its fluorescence is encoded in whole-body optical images. For low-magnification images, animals are illuminated atop a fluorescence light box and directly viewed with a thermoelectrically cooled color charge-coupled device camera. Higher-magnification images are made with the camera focused through an epi-fluorescence dissecting microscope. Both nude and normal mice were labeled by directly injecting 8 x 10(10) plaque-forming units/ml of adenoviral GFP in 20-100 microl PBS and 10% glycerol into either the brain, liver, pancreas, prostate, or bone marrow. Within 5-8 h after adenoviral GFP injection, the fluorescence of the expressed GFP in brain and liver became visible, and whole-body images were recorded at video rates. The GFP fluorescence continued to increase for at least 12 h and remained detectable in liver for up to 4 months. The system's rapidity of image acquisition makes it capable of real-time recording. It requires neither exogenous contrast agents, radioactive substrates, nor long processing times. The method requires only that the expressed gene or promoter be fused or operatively linked to GFP. A comparatively modest investment allows the study of the therapeutic and diagnostic potential of suitably tagged genes in relatively opaque organisms.

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