Background: Mice expressing fluorescent proteins in neurons are one of the most powerful tools in modern neuroscience research and are increasingly being used for in vivo studies of neurodegeneration. However, these mice are often used under the assumption that the fluorescent proteins present are biologically inert.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Here, we show that thy1-driven expression of yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) in neurons triggers multiple cell stress responses at both the mRNA and protein levels in vivo. The presence of YFP in neurons also subtly altered neuronal morphology and modified the time-course of dying-back neurodegeneration in experimental axonopathy, but not in Wallerian degeneration triggered by nerve injury.
Conclusions/Significance: We conclude that fluorescent protein expressed in thy1-YFP mice is not biologically inert, modifies molecular and cellular characteristics of neurons in vivo, and has diverse and unpredictable effects on neurodegeneration pathways.