Definition of cellular structure and function is an ongoing challenge facing the research community, with the complexity multiplying each time a scientist announces the discovery of new proteins and pathways. The need for more, and better tools is met often on purpose, but sometimes by serendipity.

Although Mikhail Matz and colleagues might dispute that their isolation of a red fluorescent protein from a nonbioluminescent marine animal (Discosoma sp.) was serendipitous, their hypothesis was, at least, counterintuitive.1 The protein they found was only 26-30% identical to green fluorescent protein (GFP) at the amino acid level, yet it faithfully conserves GFP's b-can structure. Palo Alto, Calif.-based BD Biosciences-Clontech added this first generation fluorescent protein, DsRed1, to its Living Colors™ series—joining green, yellow, and cyan fluorescent variants to form a four-color palette.

Mutational tinkering by Clontech has doubled fluorescence intensity, decreased toxicity in vivo, halved expression time to 24 hours,...

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