Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Researchers develop new way to see single RNA molecules inside living cells

08.04.2009
Biomedical engineers have developed a new type of probe that allows them to visualize single ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules within live cells more easily than existing methods. The tool will help scientists learn more about how RNA operates within living cells.

Techniques scientists currently use to image these transporters of genetic information within cells have several drawbacks, including the need for synthetic RNA or a large number of fluorescent molecules. The fluorescent probes developed at the Georgia Institute of Technology circumvent these issues.

"The probes we designed shine bright, are small and easy to assemble, bind rapidly to their targets, and can be imaged for hours. These characteristics make them a great choice for studying the movement and location of RNA inside a single cell and the interaction between RNA and binding proteins," said Philip Santangelo, an assistant professor in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory University.

Details of the probe production process and RNA imaging strategy were published online in the journal Nature Methods on April 6. In addition to Santangelo, Georgia Tech graduate student Aaron Lifland, Emory University associate professor Gary Bassell and Vanderbilt University professor James Crowe Jr. also contributed to this research. This research was funded by new faculty support from Georgia Tech.

In the study, the probes – produced by attaching a few small fluorescent molecules called fluorophores to a modified nucleic acid sequence and combining the sequences with a protein – exhibited single-molecule sensitivity and allowed the researchers to target and follow native RNA and non-engineered viral RNA in living cells.

"The great thing about these probes is that they recognize RNA sequences and bind to them using the same base pairing most people are familiar with in regards to DNA," explained Santangelo. "By adding 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 that appeared to dock with a viral RNA granule."

Santangelo is currently trying to improve the probes by making them smaller and brighter, while also using them to investigate viral pathogenesis and other biological phenomena.

"We are excited to use this imaging strategy to study how single viral RNAs travel from the nucleus of a cell to a virus assembly site, how mRNAs are regulated by location and time, and RNA trafficking in neurons," added Santangelo.

Abby Vogel | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.gatech.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling
07.12.2016 | National Centre for Biological Sciences

nachricht Transforming plant cells from generalists to specialists
07.12.2016 | Duke University

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Significantly more productivity in USP lasers

In recent years, lasers with ultrashort pulses (USP) down to the femtosecond range have become established on an industrial scale. They could advance some applications with the much-lauded “cold ablation” – if that meant they would then achieve more throughput. A new generation of process engineering that will address this issue in particular will be discussed at the “4th UKP Workshop – Ultrafast Laser Technology” in April 2017.

Even back in the 1990s, scientists were comparing materials processing with nanosecond, picosecond and femtosesecond pulses. The result was surprising:...

Im Focus: Shape matters when light meets atom

Mapping the interaction of a single atom with a single photon may inform design of quantum devices

Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

NTU scientists build new ultrasound device using 3-D printing technology

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

The balancing act: An enzyme that links endocytosis to membrane recycling

07.12.2016 | Life Sciences

How to turn white fat brown

07.12.2016 | Health and Medicine

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>