Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from BMC Biotechnology and BioMed Central.

Open Access Open Badges Research article

Options for tracking GFP-Labeled transplanted myoblasts using in vivo fluorescence imaging: implications for tracking stem cell fate

Zhong Yang1, Yaming Wang2, Yanan Li1, Qiang Liu2, Qing Zeng3 and Xiaoyin Xu3*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Clinical Hematology, College of Laboratory Medicine, Southwest Hospital, Third Military Medical University, No. 29, GaoTanYan Street, ChongQing 400038, PR China

2 Department of Anesthesia, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Boston, MA 02115, USA

3 Department of Radiology, Functional and Molecular Imaging Center, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, 75 Francis Street SR 153, Boston, MA 02115, USA

For all author emails, please log on.

BMC Biotechnology 2014, 14:55  doi:10.1186/1472-6750-14-55

Published: 12 June 2014



Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a useful biomarker, widely used in biomedical research to track stem cells after transplantation and/or to assess therapeutic transgene expression. However, both GFP and therapeutic gene products themselves may be immunogenic to the recipient. The main aim of this study was to use animal models to evaluate potential impact of GFP on the cell engraftment and to optimize tracking strategies prior to transplantation.


By using a fluorescent imaging (FLI) system, we investigated the dynamic cell behavior of GFP-transduced myoblasts in tibialis anterior (TA) muscles of immunocompetent mdx mice and immuno-compromised nude mice over a period of three months. The results suggested an apparent underlying host immunorejection in the mdx mice. Dystrophin immunostaining showed that the engraftment of wild type myoblasts was much more effective than that of the GFP-labeled counterparts in the mdx mice, further confirming an antigen role of GFP in this process. We tracked the GFP-transduced myoblasts in C57BL/6 mice and found GFP to be minimally immunogenic in these animals, as indicated by the GFP signal maintaining a much stronger level than that found in mdx and BALB/c mice at parallel time points. We also compared the in vivo cell behavior differences between myoblasts from virally GFP-transduced and GFP transgenic mice. The latter displayed much better engraftment, as determined both biomaging and histological observations.


Our results not only demonstrated the immunogenicity of GFP in immunocompetent mice, but determined the optimized conditions for GFP-based in vivo stem cells tracking, that can potentially be extrapolated to human biomedical research.

GFP-Labeled Transplanted Myoblasts; Fluorescence Imaging; Stem Cell