To flag neurons that have experienced genotoxic stress, researchers developed an in vivo sensor using an adeno-associated viral vector, called PRISM. Because a cell’s DNA damage response (DDR)—which activates in response to stressors such as environmental toxins or the buildup of misfolded proteins—also responds to invading pathogens, PRISM has an easier time transfecting cells whose damage response mechanisms are preoccupied with existing DNA damage. Once inside, the virus hijacks the neuron’s DNA replication machinery, which reverts an engineered frameshift mutation in the virus and thereby prompts the production of a fluorescent protein that can be observed via microscopy.
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
Infographic: DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity

A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.

A new genetic sensor called PRISM makes use of a host cell’s DNA replication machinery to trigger fluorescence in neurons with damaged DNA.

fluorescent protein
Broken DNA
DNA Damage Viewed with Unprecedented Clarity
Amanda Heidt | Aug 15, 2022
A new tool called PRISM draws on virus-host interactions and a DNA repair pathway to help researchers visualize how cellular stress may contribute to neurodegenerative disease.
Certain Color Varieties of a Coral Are More Protected from Bleaching
Lisa Winter | Feb 25, 2021
In yellow-green and purple versions of the reef-building Acropora tenuis, the genes that code for particular fluorescent and other colorful proteins become more active in the summer, protecting symbiotic algae from thermal stress and resisting bleaching.
Researchers Produce Alpaca Antibodies Using Yeast
Catherine Offord | Feb 13, 2018
With multiple applications in biomedicine, the antibodies can now be made quickly, cheaply, and without the need for an alpaca or one of its relatives.
Image of the Day: Hippocampal Jalapeno
The Scientist Staff | Aug 30, 2017
To tease apart brain regions involved in forming versus remembering memories, scientists engineered mice whose brain cells could be manipulated and tagged.
Image of the Day: A Heart is Born
The Scientist Staff | Aug 28, 2017
To track distinct populations of developing cardiovascular cells, scientists used pulses of electricity to introduce fluorescently labeled DNA into chick embryos.
Notable Science Quotes
The Scientist Staff | Oct 1, 2016
Roger Tsien R.I.P., predatory publishing, and diversity in science
Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien Dies
Kerry Grens | Aug 31, 2016
One of the pioneers in developing fluorescent proteins for biological studies was 64 years old.
Updated Tissue-Clearing Protocol Extends Time Frame for Imaging
Kerry Grens | Aug 23, 2016
“Ultimate DISCO” uses a solvent that shrinks whole animals and preserves fluorescence for months.
Grab ’n’ Glow
Ruth Williams | Jan 1, 2015
Engineered proteins can tether multiple fluorescent molecules to give a brighter signal—and that’s not all.
Predicting Worm Lifespan
Jef Akst | Feb 13, 2014
Scientists engineer fluorescing nematodes to project the worms’ expected lifespans through flashes of light at just three days old.
Glowing Green Eel
Chris Palmer | Jun 17, 2013
The Japanese freshwater eel is the first vertebrate found to produce a fluorescent protein, which may prove useful in the clinic.
What Ever Happened to Douglas Prasher?
Bob Grant | Feb 26, 2013
The first researcher to clone the gene for green fluorescent protein, but who was passed over for the 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, is back in academic science.
DayGlo Science
Laura Geggel | Jul 19, 2012
Biologist David Gruber studies radiant creatures and their fluorescent proteins.
Live and In Color
Sarah Webb, Knowable Magazine | Apr 1, 2012
How to track RNA in living cells
Encrypting E. coli
Kerry Grens | Sep 26, 2011
Researchers design patterns of fluorescent protein expression to deliver secret messages.