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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012 Nov 1;4(11). pii: a012310. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a012310.

Imaging translation in single cells using fluorescent microscopy.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461, USA.


The regulation of translation provides a mechanism to control not only the abundance of proteins, but also the precise time and subcellular location that they are synthesized. Much of what is known concerning the molecular basis for translational control has been gleaned from experiments (e.g., luciferase assays and polysome analysis) that measure average changes in the protein synthesis of a population of cells, however, mechanistic insights can be obscured in ensemble measurements. The development of fluorescent microscopy techniques and reagents has allowed translation to be studied within its cellular context. Here we highlight recent methodologies that can be used to study global changes in protein synthesis or regulation of specific mRNAs in single cells. Imaging of translation has provided direct evidence for local translation of mRNAs at synapses in neurons and will become an important tool for studying translational control.

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