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RNA. 2010 Jul;16(7):1420-8. doi: 10.1261/rna.2152710. Epub 2010 May 21.

Near-infrared (NIR) dye-labeled RNAs identify binding of ZBP1 to the noncoding Y3-RNA.

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Department of Molecular Cell Biology, Martin-Luther-University of Halle-Wittenberg, D-06120 Halle, Germany.


The analysis of protein-RNA association in vitro commonly involves radiolabeled in vitro transcribed RNAs. Nucleotides labeled with near-infrared (NIR) dyes provide promising alternatives for studying protein-RNA binding in vitro. However, it remained elusive whether random labeling of RNA probes by NIR dyes interferes with protein binding. Here, we demonstrate that infrared scanning allows the detection of randomly NIR-labeled RNA probes in the low femtomole range. The analyses of eight distinct protein-RNA complexes by electrophoretic mobility shift assay, filter binding, or UV crosslinking revealed that protein binding specificity remains unaffected by random NIR labeling. Accordingly, NIR probes allowed the rapid identification of the short noncoding Y3-RNA as a novel RNA target of ZBP1 (zipcode binding protein). Whereas binding of ZBP1 to the ACTB-zipcode and Y3 was exclusive, the protein formed a trimeric complex with the La protein and Y3. This was dissociated in the presence of Y5 RNA, resulting in the formation of ZBP1/Y3 and La/Y5 complexes. Hence, ZBP1 apparently resides in at least two distinct cellular RNPs: mRNA-containing mRNPs or Y3-containing yRNPs. In conclusion, our findings indicate that randomly labeled NIR probes provide a powerful tool for the rapid and sensitive analysis of protein-RNA binding in vitro. In contrast to radiolabeled RNAs, NIR probes remain stable for months, do not pose any safety considerations, and enable the significantly expedited analysis of experimental data due to fast read technologies available. The most prominent advantage of probes labeled by NIR dyes is the option to color-code distinct transcripts, allowing the unbiased identification of distinct protein-RNA complexes in one sample.

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