A Jelly and the Nobel Prize - Merry Passage

The Crystal Jelly, Aequorea victoria, is a celebrity among the hydromedusa.

Aequorea gonads form a rib-like pattern and are attached to the radial canals.  Frilly lips of the mouth are in the center. Pale green photoreceptors line the bell margin and contain the substance that revolutionized biotechnology - green fluorescent protein or GFP.

Coupled with and activated by the protein aequorin, GFP emits green bioluminescence in a narrow ring around the umbrella. The luminescence can only be seen under ultraviolet light.  GFP in Aequorea victoria

GFP was first isolated from these organs by Osamu Shimomura in 1962.  History of Green Fluorescent Protein

Thirty years later, the gene was cloned and an avalanche of studies began using fluorescent proteins as fluorescent labels in living systems. Utilized by countless medical and scientific research laboratories throughout the world, the applications of GFP and related fluorescent proteins are infinite.

• GFP can be used to map neural circuits of the brain, to determine the causes of neurodegenerative diseases

• visualize specific tissues in embryonic and tumor development

• study protein manufacture, location, turnover, and “aging”

• used as a reporter gene to monitor gene expression

In 2008, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for their collective work on GFP.   Pretty exciting stuff coming from a 3-inch jelly.

Bioluminescence of GFP in Aequorea victoria

But why the ring of light on Aequorea? The ocean is chock-full of creatures that produce bioluminescence; some do so with spectacular displays. Luminescence may be utilized in attracting prey, avoiding predators, camouflage and communication.

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