Imaging biological processes in mammalian tissues will be facilitated by fluorescent probes with excitation and emission bands within the near-infrared optical window of high transparency. Here we report a phytochrome-based near-infrared fluorescent protein (iRFP) with excitation and emission maxima at 690 nm and 713 nm, respectively. iRFP does not require an exogenous supply of the chromophore biliverdin and has higher effective brightness, intracellular stability and photostability than earlier phytochrome-derived fluorescent probes. Compared with far-red GFP-like proteins, iRFP has a substantially higher signal-to-background ratio in a mouse model due to its infrared-shifted spectra.
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