Nature Comms. 3, 1262 (2012)

The brightest luminescent protein to date, aptly named Nano-Lantern, has been developed by scientists in Japan. Kenta Saito and his co-workers say that it will allow biological phenomena to be imaged on the scale of single cells, organs or the whole body in animals and plants. It is anticipated to be particularly useful in cases where fluorescence cannot be used. Nano-Lantern is a chimera of enhanced Renilla luciferase and the fluorescent protein Venus and emits green light at around 530 nm. The Japanese researchers demonstrated that it permits real-time imaging of intracellular structures in living cells with a spatial resolution similar to that of fluorescence imaging. Although the light emitted from Nano-Lantern has a power density that is about 100 times weaker than that of typical fluorescence, it has a much lower noise level so that the signal-to-noise ratio is equivalent to that of fluorescence imaging. Furthermore, an external light source is not required to drive the emission.