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Researchers develop new way to see single RNA molecules inside living cells
Date:4/6/2009

g only a few probes that would bind to a region of RNA, we gained the ability to distinguish a targeted RNA molecule from a single unbound probe because the former lit up two or three times brighter."

For their experiments, the team used a bacterial toxin to transport the probes into living cells a delivery technique that when combined with the high affinity of the probes for their targets, required significantly fewer probes than existing techniques. The toxin created several tiny holes in the cell membrane that allowed the probes to enter the cell's cytoplasm.

The researchers tested the sensitivity of conventional fluorescence microscopy to image individual probes inside a cell. Previous studies showed that these techniques were able to image an accumulation of probes inside a cell, but the current study demonstrated that individual probes without cellular targets could be observed homogenously distributed in the cytoplasm with no localization or aggregation.

With single-molecule sensitivity accomplished, the researchers investigated whether they could visualize individual RNA molecules using the probes. To do this, they simultaneously delivered probes designed to target a human messenger RNA (mRNA) sequence region and a probe designed with no target in the human genome. They were able to image unbound probes of both types as well as individual RNA molecules that had attached to the former probes.

The imaging technique also allowed the researchers to observe a process called dynamic RNA-protein co-localization, which is the joining of RNA molecules and RNA binding proteins in a single cell.

"We observed substantial transient interactions between proteins and viral RNA molecules that I don't think had ever been seen before with non-engineered RNA," noted Santangelo. "We saw one of the proteins move into a viral RNA granule and reside within it for over a minute before it was released, and we also saw another protein
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Contact: Abby Vogel
avogel@gatech.edu
404-385-3364
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News
Source:Eurekalert  

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