Following the messenger: Recent innovations in live cell single molecule fluorescence imaging

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Messenger RNAs (mRNAs) convey genetic information from the DNA genome to proteins and thus lie at the heart of gene expression and regulation of all cellular activities. Live cell single molecule tracking tools enable the investigation of mRNA trafficking, translation and degradation within the complex environment of the cell and in real time. Over the last 5 years, nearly all tools within the mRNA tracking toolbox have been improved to achieve high-quality multi-color tracking in live cells. For example, the bacteriophage-derived MS2-MCP system has been improved to facilitate cloning and achieve better signal-to-noise ratio, while the newer PP7-PCP system now allows for orthogonal tracking of a second mRNA or mRNA region. The coming of age of epitope-tagging technologies, such as the SunTag, MoonTag and Frankenbody, enables monitoring the translation of single mRNA molecules. Furthermore, the portfolio of fluorogenic RNA aptamers has been expanded to improve cellular stability and achieve a higher fluorescence “turn-on” signal upon fluorogen binding. Finally, microinjection-based tools have been shown to be able to track multiple RNAs with only small fluorescent appendages and to track mRNAs together with their interacting partners. We systematically review and compare the advantages, disadvantages and demonstrated applications in discovering new RNA biology of this refined, expanding toolbox. Finally, we discuss developments expected in the near future based on the limitations of the current methods. This article is categorized under: RNA Export and Localization > RNA Localization RNA Structure and Dynamics > RNA Structure, Dynamics, and Chemistry RNA Interactions with Proteins and Other Molecules > RNA–Protein Complexes.




Schmidt, A., Gao, G., Little, S. R., Jalihal, A. P., & Walter, N. G. (2020, July 1). Following the messenger: Recent innovations in live cell single molecule fluorescence imaging. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: RNA. Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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