what makes me blogging?

In genetic engineering, a reporter gene is one producing a protein that is easy to measure by recent technology. For instance, the firefly's luciferase gene is easy to observe because it glows in the dark. The first reporter assay  (i.e., the chloramphenicol acetyl-transferase) is older than me, it was a messy radioactive protocol that discouraged lot of young undergrads. In fact, now, those 'young' undergrads, are probably your P.I., and they think at reporter assays as to a quite obsolete experimental approach. Nowadays, you can have a full sequenced transcriptome, why bothering with artificial reporters?

Don't be stuck to the classic 'wikipedian' definition of reporter: things are evolved from the old 5'-promoter-reporter-3' scheme, and now, synthetic biologists are inventing new assay declinations. If you are curious, I prepared a small survey of some different cellular functions being studied by reporter approaches in 2008; as you can see, there is a big room for things other than transcription or enhancer discovery!  Indeed, it is now quite simple to "copy and paste" single genes with known function in and out of most any organism via recombinant DNA. Thus, by engineering reporter genes with other cellular elements, one can achieve a contextual, system-level, space-temporal measurements of molecular functions in living cells/organisms. In other words, we can use those small genes to understand our inner molecular physiology. The very limitation is the creativity of the researcher, not the assay.

The reason why reporter genes are worth blogging is that, as technology evolves, the reporter toolbox increases in terms of both new proteins and new detection methods. As the movie shows, it is now possible to assay the reporter in living conscious animals with minimal distress. This is better research because it is morally respectful of animal dignity, and it is better research because it is closer to life than any other research conducted on dead specimens. I wrote more on this idea of better research.

In this blog, I collect updated information on reporter genes and assays from separate fields like optics, physics, pharmacology, chemistry and medicine. In my (little) spare time I scrutinize some 50 peer-reviewed journals, to distill new knowledge about reporter genes and stimulate your creativity.

I'm not affiliated with any life science brand, and here I express some of my collateral academic interests, think at this conversation like as a coffee talk. If you wish to get in touch, or share any hot news about molecular biology, you can submit a guest post, or directly contact me at: info@reportergene.com.

And yes, I host some advertisements, be gentle with them because they pay some rare coffee.