Open Access Open Badges Methodology

Visualizing the actin cytoskeleton in living plant cells using a photo-convertible mEos::FABD-mTn fluorescent fusion protein

Mike Schenkel, Alison M Sinclair, Daniel Johnstone, J Derek Bewley and Jaideep Mathur*

Author Affiliations

Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, N1G 2W1, Canada

For all author emails, please log on.

Plant Methods 2008, 4:21  doi:10.1186/1746-4811-4-21

Published: 19 September 2008



The actin cytoskeleton responds quickly to diverse stimuli and plays numerous roles in cellular signalling, organelle motility and subcellular compartmentation during plant growth and development. Molecular and cell biological tools that can facilitate visualization of actin organization and dynamics in a minimally invasive manner are essential for understanding this fundamental component of the living cell.


A novel, monomeric (m) Eos-fluorescent protein derived from the coral Lobophyllia hemprichii was assessed for its green to red photo-convertibility in plant cells by creating mEosFP-cytosolic. mEosFP was fused to the F-(filamentous)-Actin Binding Domain of the mammalian Talin gene to create mEosFP::FABDmTalin. Photo-conversion, visualization and colour quantification protocols were developed for EosFP targeted to the F-actin cytoskeleton. Rapid photo-conversion in the entire cell or in a region of interest was easily achieved upon illumination with an approximately 400 nm wavelength light beam using an epi-fluorescent microscope. Dual color imaging after photo-conversion was carried out using a confocal laser-scanning microscope. Time-lapse imaging revealed that although photo-conversion of single mEosFP molecules can be rapid in terms of live-cell imaging it involves a progressive enrichment of red fluorescent molecules over green species. The fluorescence of photo-converted cells thus progresses through intermediate shades ranging from green to red. The time taken for complete conversion to red fluorescence depends on protein expression level within a cell and the quality of the focusing lens used to deliver the illuminating beam. Three easily applicable methods for obtaining information on fluorescent intensity and colour are provided as a means of ensuring experimental repeatability and data quantification, when using mEosFP and similar photo-convertible proteins.


The mEosFP::FABD-mTn probe retains all the imaging qualities associated with the well tested GFP::mTn probe while allowing for non-invasive, regional photo-conversion that allows colour based discrimination within a living cell. Whereas a number of precautions should be exercised in dealing with photo-convertible probes, mEosFP::FABD-mTn is a versatile live imaging tool for dissecting the organization and activity of the actin cytoskeleton in plants.