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J Nanobiotechnology. 2007 Oct 10;5:7.

mRNA detection of individual cells with the single cell nanoprobe method compared with in situ hybridization.

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Department of Life Science, Graduate School of Bioscience and Biotechnology, Tokyo Institute of Technology, Nagatsuta, Midori-ku, Yokohama 226-8501, Japan.



The localization of specific mRNA generates cell polarity by controlling the translation sites of specific proteins. Although most of these events depend on differences in gene expression, no method is available to examine time dependent gene expression of individual living cells. In situ hybridization (ISH) is a powerful and useful method for detecting the localization of mRNAs, but it does not allow a time dependent analysis of mRNA expression in single living cells because the cells have to be fixed for mRNA detection. To overcome these issues, the extraction of biomolecules such as mRNAs, proteins, and lipids from living cells should be performed without severe damage to the cells. In previous studies, we have reported a single cell nanoprobe (SCN) method to examine gene expression of individual living cells using atomic force microscopy (AFM) without killing the cells.


In order to evaluate the SCN method, we compared the SCN method with in situ hybridization (ISH). First, we examined spatial beta-actin mRNA expression in single living cells with the SCN method, and then the same cells were subjected to ISH for beta-actin mRNA. In the SCN method, quantity of beta-actin mRNA were analysed by quantitative PCR, and in ISH we used intensity of ISH as a parameter of concentration of beta-actin mRNA. We showed that intensity of ISH is higher; quantity of beta-actin mRNA detected by the SCN method increased more.


In this study, we compare the SCN method with the ISH. We examined beta-actin mRNA expression in single cells using both methods. We picked up beta-actin mRNA from several loci of a single living cell using an AFM nanoprobe, and identical cells were subjected to ISH. The results showed a good correlation between the SCN method and ISH. The SCN method is suitable and reliable to examine mRNAs at medium or higher expression level.

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