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Fluorescent Tubulin and Other Fluorescent Cytoskeletal Proteins

GFP- and RFP-Labeled Tubulin

GFP–tubulin fusions are well-established probes for imaging cytokinesis and other dynamic rearrangements of microtubules in live cells.ref CellLight Tubulin-GFP (C10509, C10613; Figure 11.2.1) and CellLight Tubulin-RFP expression vectors (C10503, C10614) generate autofluorescent proteins fused to the N-terminus of human β-tubulin (CellLight reagents and their targeting sequences—Table 11.1) and incorporate all the generic advantages of BacMam 2.0 delivery technology (BacMam Gene Delivery and Expression Technology—Note 11.1).


Figure 11.2.1 Human mesenchymal stem cell labeled with CellLight Tubulin-GFP (C10509C10613) and CellLight Histone 2B-RFP (C10595) reagents.

GFP- and RFP-Labeled Talin

Talin is a cytoskeletal protein that is concentrated in focal adhesions, linking integrins to the actin cytoskeleton either directly or indirectly by interacting with vinculin and α-actinin. CellLight Talin-GFP (C10611, Figure 11.2.2) and CellLight Talin-RFP (C10612) expression vectors generate autofluorescent proteins fused to the C-terminal actin-binding domain of human talin (CellLight reagents and their targeting sequences—Table 11.1) and incorporate all the generic advantages of BacMam 2.0 delivery technology (BacMam Gene Delivery and Expression Technology—Note 11.1). These CellLight reagents have potential applications in image-based high-content screening (HCS) assays of integrin-mediated cell adhesion, as well as for general-purpose labeling of cytoskeletal actin in live cells.


Figure 11.2.2 HeLa cell labeled with CellLight Talin-GFP (C10611) and CellLight Actin-RFP (C10502, C10583) reagents.

Paclitaxel Probes for Labeling Tubulin


We offer paclitaxel (P3456) for research purposes only at a purity of >98% by HPLC. Paclitaxel, formerly referred to as taxol in some scientific literature, is the approved generic name for the anticancer pharmaceutical Taxol (Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.). The diterpenoid paclitaxel is a potent anti-neoplastic agent ref originally isolated from the bark and needles of the western yew tree, Taxus brevifolia.ref The anti-mitotic and cytotoxic action of paclitaxel is related to its ability to promote tubulin assembly into stable aggregated structures that cannot be depolymerized by dilution, calcium ions, cold or a number of microtubule-disrupting drugs;ref paclitaxel also decreases the critical concentration of tubulin required for microtubule assembly. Cultured cells treated with paclitaxel are blocked in the G2 (the "gap" between DNA synthesis and mitosis) and M (mitosis) phases of the cell cycle.ref

TubulinTracker Green Reagent

TubulinTracker Green reagent (T34075) provides green-fluorescent staining of polymerized tubulin in live cells.ref Also known as Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel bis-acetate (a bi-acetylated version of Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel (P22310), see below), TubulinTracker Green reagent is an uncharged, nonfluorescent compound that easily passes through the plasma membrane of live cells. Once inside the cell, the lipophilic blocking group is cleaved by nonspecific esterases, resulting in a green-fluorescent, charged paclitaxel.

TubulinTracker Green reagent is provided as a set of two components: lyophilized TubulinTracker Green reagent and a 20% Pluronic F-127 solution in dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), a solubilizing agent for making stock solutions and facilitating cell loading. Please note that because paclitaxel binds polymerized tubulin, TubulinTracker Green reagent will inhibit cell division and possibly other functions utilizing polymerized tubulin in live cells.

Fluorescent Paclitaxel Conjugate

In addition to unlabeled paclitaxel and TubulinTracker Green reagent, we provide the fluorescent derivative Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel (Flutax-2, P22310). This fluorescent paclitaxel derivative is a promising tool for imaging microtubule formation and motility, as well as for screening compounds that affect microtubule assembly.

Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel ref is an important probe for labeling tubulin filaments in live cells. The fluorescent label on this probe is attached by derivatizing the 7β-hydroxy group of native paclitaxel, a strategy that permits selective binding of the probe to microtubules with high affinity at 37°C ref (Kd ~10-7 M). Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel has been utilized in a high-throughput fluorescence polarization–based assay to screen for paclitaxel biomimetics.ref We have successfully used Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel to label microtubules of live HeLa (photo), NIH 3T3, A-10 and BC3H1 cells. Xenopus laevisref and bovine brain ref microtubules have also been stained with Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel.

As an alternative to chemically modifying tubulin with a reactive fluorophore, a published method describes the use of BODIPY paclitaxel derivatives to generate fluorescent microtubules that are stable at room temperature for one week or longer.ref In contrast to the Oregon Green 488 derivative, the BODIPY 564/570 paclitaxel derivative does not appear to be suitable for labeling intracellular tubulin in most cases.

Other Tubulin-Selective Probes

Fluorescent Vinblastine

BODIPY FL vinblastine, a fluorescent analog of the anticancer drug vinblastine, is a useful probe for labeling β-tubulin and for investigating drug-transport mechanisms.ref Vinblastine inhibits cell proliferation by capping microtubule ends, thereby suppressing mitotic spindle microtubule dynamics.ref Another fluorescent vinblastine derivative, vinblastine 4'-anthranilate, reportedly binds to the central portion of the primary sequence of β-tubulin and inhibits polymerization.ref

In addition, intracellular accumulation of vinblastine has been associated with a vinblastine-specific modulating site on P-glycoprotein, a drug-efflux pump that is overexpressed in multidrug-resistant (MDR) cells ref (Probes for Cell Adhesion, Chemotaxis, Multidrug Resistance and Glutathione—Section 15.6). This highly lipophilic P-glycoprotein substrate has also been used to study the role of P-glycoprotein in drug penetration through the blood-brain barrier.ref Fluorescently labeled vinblastine analogs, including BODIPY FL vinblastine, have been employed to measure drug-transport kinetics in MDR cells.ref

Other Probes for Tubulin

The nuclear stain DAPI (D1306, D3571, D21490) binds tightly to purified tubulin in vitro without interfering with microtubule assembly or GTP hydrolysis. DAPI binds to tubulin at sites different from those of paclitaxel, colchicine and vinblastine, and its binding is accompanied by shifts in the absorption spectra and fluorescence enhancement. The affinity of DAPI for polymeric tubulin is 7-fold greater than for dimeric tubulin, making DAPI a sensitive tool for investigating microtubule assembly kinetics.ref DAPI has been used to screen for potential antimicrotubule drugs in a high-throughput assay.ref

Bis-ANS (B153) is a potent inhibitor of in vitro microtubule assembly.ref This fluorescent probe binds to the hydrophobic clefts of proteins with an affinity approximately 10–100 times higher than that of 1,8-ANS (A47, Other Nonpolar and Amphiphilic Probes—Section 13.5) and exhibits a significant fluorescence enhancement upon binding. The bis-ANS binding site on tubulin lies near the critical contact region for microtubule assembly, but it is distinct from the binding sites for colchicine, vinblastine, podophyllotoxin and maytansine.ref Bis-ANS was used to investigate structural changes in tubulin monomers and dimers during time- and temperature-dependent decay.ref

DCVJ (4-(dicyanovinyl)julolidine), which binds to a specific site on the tubulin dimer,ref has been reported to be a useful probe for following polymerization of tubulin in live cells.ref DCVJ staining in live cells is mostly blocked by cytochalasin D.ref Additionally, DCVJ emits strong green fluorescence upon binding to bovine brain calmodulin.ref The hydrophobic surfaces of tubulin have also been investigated with the environment-sensitive probes nile red ref (N1142) and prodan.ref

Cytoskeletal Protein–Specific Antibodies

Anti–α-Tubulin Monoclonal Antibody

When used in conjunction with an anti–mouse IgG secondary immunoreagent (Secondary Immunoreagents—Section 7.2, Summary of Molecular Probes secondary antibody conjugates—Table 7.1), our anti–α-tubulin monoclonal antibody (A11126) enables researchers to visualize microtubules in fixed cells (photo, photo, photo, photo) and in fixed or frozen tissue sections from various species. This mouse monoclonal antibody, which recognizes amino acid residues 69–97 of the N-terminal structural domain, is also useful for detecting tubulin by ELISA or western blotting, for screening expression libraries and as a probe for the N-terminal domain of α-tubulin.

The anti–α-tubulin monoclonal antibody is available either unlabeled (A11126) or as a biotin-XX conjugate (A21371). For detecting the biotinylated antibody, we carry a wide variety of fluorophore- and enzyme-labeled avidin, streptavidin and NeutrAvidin biotin-binding protein conjugates and NANOGOLD and Alexa Fluor FluoroNanogold streptavidin (Avidin, Streptavidin, NeutrAvidin and CaptAvidin Biotin-Binding Proteins and Affinity Matrices—Section 7.6, Molecular Probes avidin, streptavidin, NeutrAvidin and CaptAvidin conjugates—Table 7.9).

We have extensively utilized the mouse IgG1 monoclonal anti–α-tubulin antibody during development and evaluation of our Zenon technology (Zenon Technology: Versatile Reagents for Immunolabeling—Section 7.3, Zenon Antibody Labeling Kits—Table 7.7), which allows labeling of submicrogram quantities of primary antibodies in minutes (photo, photo). A comprehensive listing of our primary antibodies for cytoskeletal proteins can be found at

Anti–Glial Fibrillary Acidic Protein (GFAP) Antibody

The 50,000-dalton type-III intermediate filament protein known as glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP) is a major structural component of astrocytes and some ependymal cells.ref GFAP associates with the calcium-binding protein annexin II2-p11(2) and S-100.ref Association with these proteins together with phosphorylation regulates GFAP polymerization. Astrocytes respond to brain injury by proliferation (astrogliosis); one of the first events to occur during astrocyte proliferation is increased GFAP expression. Our anti-GFAP antibody (A21282) and its Alexa Fluor 488 and Alexa Fluor 594 conjugates (A21294, A21295; photo) can be used to aid in the identification of cells of glial lineage. Interestingly, antibodies to GFAP have been detected in individuals with dementia.ref In the central nervous system, anti-GFAP antibody stains both astrocytes and ependymal cells. In the peripheral nervous system, Schwann cells, satellite cells and enteric glial cells are stained; tumors of glial origin contain high amounts of GFAP. No positive staining is observed in skin, connective tissue, adipose tissue, lymphatic tissue, muscle, kidney, ureter, bladder or gastrointestinal tract, including liver and pancreas. Our anti-GFAP antibody does not cross-react with vimentin, which is frequently co-expressed in glioma cells and some astrocytes, nor does it cross-react with Bergmann glia cells, gliomas or other glial cell–derived tumors.

Anti-Synapsin I Antibody

Synapsin I, an actin-binding protein, is localized exclusively to synaptic vesicles and thus serves as an excellent marker for synapses in brain and other neuronal tissues.ref Synapsin I inhibits neurotransmitter release, an effect that is abolished upon its phosphorylation by Ca2+/calmodulin–dependent protein kinase II. For assaying the localization and abundance of synapsin I by western blot analysis, immunohistochemistry (photo), enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) or immunoprecipitation, we offer a polyclonal rabbit anti–synapsin I antibody as an affinity-purified IgG fraction (A6442). Although raised against bovine synapsin I, this antibody also recognizes human, rat and mouse synapsin I; it has little or no activity against synapsin II.

Data Table

For a detailed explanation of column headings, see Definitions of Data Table Contents

Cat #MWStorageSolubleAbsECEmSolventNotes
672.85LpH >639523,000500MeOH1, 2
DAPI, dihydrochloride
350.25LH2O, DMF34228,000450pH 73
DAPI, dilactate
457.49LH2O, MeOH34228,000450pH 73
DCVJ249.31LDMF, DMSO45661,000493MeOH4
DAPI, FluoroPure grade
350.25LH2O, DMF34228,000450pH 73, 5
nile red
318.37LDMF, DMSO55245,000636MeOH6
prodan227.31LDMF, MeCN36319,000497MeOH7
853.92F,DMeOH, DMSO22830,000noneMeOH 
BODIPY 5684/570 paclitaxel1098.98FF,D,LDMSO565121,000571MeOH 
Oregon Green 488 paclitaxel (Flutax-2)
1319.28FF,D,LDMSO, EtOH49480,000522pH 9 
BODIPY FL vinblastine1043.02F,D,LDMSO, DMF50383,000510MeOH 
  1. Bis-ANS (B153) is soluble in water at 0.1–1.0 mM after heating.
  2. Bis-ANS (B153) bound to tubulin has Abs = 392 nm, Em = 490 nm and a fluorescence quantum yield of 0.23.ref
  3. DAPI undergoes an approximately 9-fold fluorescence enhancement on binding to polymerized tubulin. Abs = 345 nm, Em = 446 nm.ref
  4. The absorption and fluorescence emission maxima of DCVJ (4-(dicyanovinyl)julolidine) bound to tubulin are essentially the same as in methanol.ref
  5. This product is specified to equal or exceed 98% analytical purity by HPLC.
  6. The fluorescence emission maximum of nile red (N1142) bound to tubulin is 623 nm.ref
  7. The fluorescence emission maximum of prodan bound to tubulin is ~450 nm.ref

For Research Use Only. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.