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Fusion of green fluorescent protein to the C-terminus of granulysin alters its intracellular localization in comparison to the native molecule

Dennis A Hanson1* and Steven F Ziegler2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195 USA

2 Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason, Seattle, WA 98101 USA

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Journal of Negative Results in BioMedicine 2004, 3:2  doi:10.1186/1477-5751-3-2

Published: 10 September 2004


The engineering of green fluorescent protein (GFP) fusion constructs in order to visibly tag a protein of interest has become a commonly used cell biology technique. Although caveats to this approach are obvious, literature reports in which the chimeric molecule behaves differently than the native molecule are scant. This brief report describes one such case. Granulysin, a small lytic and antimicrobial protein produced by cytotoxic lymphocytes, traffics to the regulated secretory system and is subsequently released from cells upon proper stimulus. In an attempt to elucidate mechanisms by which it accumulates in and is released from cytolytic granules, GFP was fused to the C-terminus of granulysin and expressed in an NK cell line. A control construct expressing the native protein was similarly expressed. The data demonstrate that, while the fusion protein is expressed and secreted, its subcellular localization is altered in comparison to native granulysin. Thus, the addition of GFP to the C-terminus of granulysin obscures the signal(s) that cytotoxic lymphocytes use to sort it to the regulated secretory pathway despite its normal biosynthesis and secretion. This example is offered as a cautionary account for other researchers who contemplate using this technology.