This critical review provides an overview of the continually expanding family of fluorescent proteins (FPs) that have become essential tools for studies of cell biology and physiology. Here, we describe the characteristics of the genetically encoded fluorescent markers that now span the visible spectrum from deep blue to deep red. We identify some of the novel FPs that have unusual characteristics that make them useful reporters of the dynamic behaviors of proteins inside cells, and describe how many different optical methods can be combined with the FPs to provide quantitative measurements in living systems (227 references). "If wood is rubbed with the Pulmo marinus, it will have all the appearance of being on fire; so much so, indeed, that a walking-stick, thus treated, will light the way like a torch" (translation of Pliny the Elder from John Bostock, 1855).
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