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J Cell Sci. 2007 Jul 15;120(Pt 14):2301-7.

Show and tell: visualizing gene expression in living cells.

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The Wistar Institute, 3601 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


The development of non-invasive methods of visualizing proteins and nucleic acids in living cells has provided profound insight into how they move and interact with each other in vivo. It is possible to evaluate basic mechanisms of gene expression, and to define their temporal and spatial parameters by using this methodology to label endogenous genes and make reporter constructs that allow specific DNA and RNA regulatory elements to be localized. This Commentary highlights recent reports that have used these techniques to study nuclear organization, transcription factor dynamics and the kinetics of RNA synthesis. These studies show how imaging gene expression in single living cells can reveal new regulatory mechanisms. They also expand our understanding of the role of chromatin and RNA dynamics in modulating cellular responses to developmental and environmental signals.

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