Recent progress in generating a vast number of drug targets through genomics and large compound libraries through combinatorial chemistry have stimulated advancements in drug discovery through the development of new high throughput screening (HTS) methods. Automation and HTS techniques are also highly desired in fields such as clinical diagnostics. Luminescence-based assays have emerged as an alternative to radiolabel-based assays in HTS as they approach the sensitivity of radioactive detection along with ease of operation, which makes them amenable to miniaturization. Luminescent proteins provide the advantage of reduced reagent and operating costs because they can be produced in unlimited amounts through the use of genetic engineering tools. In that regard, the use of two naturally occurring and recombinantly produced luminescent proteins from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, namely, aequorin and the green fluorescent protein (GFP), has attracted attention in a number of analytical applications in diverse research areas. Aequorin is naturally bioluminescent and has therefore, virtually no associated background signal, which allows its detection down to attomole levels. GFP has become the reporter of choice in a variety of applications given that it is an autofluorescent protein that does not require addition of any co-factors for fluorescence emission. Furthermore, the generation of various mutants of GFP with differing luminescent and spectral properties has spurred additional interest in this protein. In this review, we focus on the use of aequorin and GFP in the development of highly sensitive assays that find applications in drug discovery and in high throughput analysis.
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