Fluorescence, the absorption and re-emission of photons with longer wavelengths, is one of those amazing phenomena of Nature. Its discovery and utilization had, and still has, a major impact on biological and biomedical research, since it enables researchers not just to visualize normal physiological processes with high temporal and spatial resolution, to detect multiple signals concomitantly, to track single molecules in vivo
, to replace radioactive assays when possible, but also to shed light on many pathobiological processes underpinning disease states, which would otherwise not be possible. Compounds that exhibit fluorescence are commonly called fluorochromes or fluorophores and one of these fluorescent molecules in particular has significantly enabled life science research to gain new insights in virtually all its sub-disciplines: Green Fluorescent Protein. Because fluorescent proteins are synthesized in vivo
, integration of fluorescent detection methods into the biological system via genetic techniques now became feasible. Currently fluorescent proteins are available that virtually span the whole electromagnetic spectrum. Concomitantly, fluorescence imaging techniques were developed, and often progress in one field fueled innovation in the other. Impressively, the properties of fluorescence were utilized to develop new assays and imaging modalities, ranging from energy transfer to image molecular interactions to imaging beyond the diffraction limit with super-resolution microscopy. Here, an overview is provided of recent developments in both fluorescence imaging and fluorochrome engineering, which together constitute the “fluorescence toolbox” in life science research.