Evolution of a photoactivatable GFP-like protein
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Understanding how new protein functions evolve is crucial to rationally engineering proteins with desired functions. One way we can begin to understand this is to compare the biochemical properties of ancestral and extant proteins whose functions have changed over an evolutionary interval. An evolutionary interval in green fluorescent protein-like (GFP-like) proteins from corals has been identified where an ancestral green state evolved to an extant photoconvertible red state. Irradiation of photoconvertible fluorescent proteins with light of a specific wavelength, intensity, and duration causes distinct changes in their fluorescence properties. I developed experimental photoconversion assays and biochemically characterized the photoconversion process for a natural evolutionary transition in the Kaede GFP-like protein family. Developing a deeper understanding of the biochemical properties that lead to the natural evolution of a photoconvertible protein will allow better design of markers that can be used in imaging and microscopy.