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J Microsc. 2012 Mar;245(3):229-35. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2818.2011.03564.x. Epub 2011 Nov 17.

Potential limitations in the use of KillerRed for fluorescence microscopy.

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Laboratory of Lipid Biochemistry and Protein Interactions, Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.


KillerRed, a bright red fluorescent protein, is a genetically encoded photosensitizer, which generates radicals and hydrogen peroxide upon green light illumination. The protein is a potentially powerful tool for selective light-induced protein inactivation and cell killing, and can also be used to study downstream effects of locally increased levels of reactive oxygen species. The initial aim of this study was to investigate whether or not KillerRed-mediated reactive oxygen species production inside peroxisomes could trigger the sequestration of these organelles into autophagosomes. Green fluorescent protein-tagged microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3 was used as autophagosome marker. We observed that KillerRed also emits weak green fluorescence upon excitation at 480 nm, and this may lead to erroneous data interpretation in conditions where green fluorophores are used. We discuss this potential pitfall of KillerRed for biological imaging and formulate recommendations to avoid misinterpretation of the data.

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