One of the best ways to watch the complex workings of living cells is to label components, such as DNA segments, with fluorescent probes—small molecules with active optical properties. Then, using a fluorescent microscope, movement of the labeled DNA can be tracked through the entire lifespan of a cell without disruption.
Unfortunately, conventional probes are always ‘on’—emitting fluorescent light—regardless of whether the target nucleic acid is present or not. Now, Akimitsu Okamoto and colleagues from the RIKEN Advanced Science Institute in Wako have designed new fluorescent probes that turn on only when a specific nucleic acid strand is recognized1. Because these probes can be labeled with different fluorescent colors, it is now possible to image multiple processes in a cell simultaneously.
Okamoto’s probes comprise a pair of identical fluorescent dye molecules, linked together by a Y-shaped organic chain to a DNA strand. When the probe is not attached to an RNA target, it is in the ‘off’ state and emits no fluorescent light. This is because the two dye molecules stack parallel to one another such that they can access each other’s electronic states, suppressing the fluorescence through what is known as an excitonic interaction.
When the probe encounters a complementary RNA strand, however, it undergoes hybridization and forms a double helix. In this configuration, the two dye molecules on the probe become separated and stack between groups in the double helix. Immediately, fluorescence is restored and the probe turns ‘on’.
Okamoto and his team found that by adding different types of dyes to the ‘on–off’ probes they emitted distinct fluorescent colors after hybridization. Using this technology, the researchers set out to visualize, in real-time, microRNAs, which are small nucleic acids that regulate gene expression.
In their experiment, three types of microRNA strands were injected into a living cell. Then, three probes were added; each one complementary to one of the microRNA strands. Fluorescence in three different colors was instantly seen in the middle of the cells, demonstrating successful recognition of multiple targets.
According to Okamoto, while scientists know how RNA is synthesized, spliced and transported within a cell, much of this information is fragmented. Correlating this knowledge with time-dependent, multicolor imaging will help clarify gene expression mechanisms in living organisms.
“I want to see the life of RNA in cells,” says Okamoto. “We need long-term observations to know when, where, which and how RNA works—from birth to death.”
The corresponding author for this highlight is based at the Okamoto Initiative Research Unit, RIKEN Advanced Science Institute
Saeko Okada | Research asia research news
At last, butterflies get a bigger, better evolutionary tree
16.02.2018 | Florida Museum of Natural History
New treatment strategies for chronic kidney disease from the animal kingdom
16.02.2018 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
Theoretical physicists propose to use negative interference to control heat flow in quantum devices. Study published in Physical Review Letters
Quantum computer parts are sensitive and need to be cooled to very low temperatures. Their tiny size makes them particularly susceptible to a temperature...
Let’s say the armrest is broken in your vintage car. As things stand, you would need a lot of luck and persistence to find the right spare part. But in the world of Industrie 4.0 and production with batch sizes of one, you can simply scan the armrest and print it out. This is made possible by the first ever 3D scanner capable of working autonomously and in real time. The autonomous scanning system will be on display at the Hannover Messe Preview on February 6 and at the Hannover Messe proper from April 23 to 27, 2018 (Hall 6, Booth A30).
Part of the charm of vintage cars is that they stopped making them long ago, so it is special when you do see one out on the roads. If something breaks or...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
16.02.2018 | Information Technology
16.02.2018 | Health and Medicine
16.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy