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Methods Cell Biol. 2013;113:361-89. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-407239-8.00017-3.

RNA imaging: tracking in real-time RNA transport in neurons using molecular beacons and confocal microscopy.

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Instituto de Investigaciones Biomédicas, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Distrito Federal, Mexico.


RNAs are present within eukaryotic cells and are involved in several biological processes. RNA transport within cell compartments is important for proper cell function. To understand in depth the cellular processes in which RNA is involved requires a method that reveals RNA localization in real time in a sub-cellular context in living cells. In this protocol we describe a method for imaging RNA in living cells and in particular in neuronal cultures based on cell microinjection of molecular beacons in conjunction with confocal microscopy. This methodology overcomes some of the main obstacles for imaging RNA in live cells since microinjection allows the delivery of the probe to a desired cellular compartment and MBs bind with high specificity to its target RNA without inhibiting its function. The proper design of the MBs is essential to obtain RNA-MB association at the temperature of the cell cytosol. MBs design with other purposes in mind (such as PCR experiments) have a design that facilitates association to its target at high temperatures, rendering them unsuitable for live cell imaging. Using the methodology described in this chapter allows the study of RNA transport to different regions of neurons and may be combined with the tagging of proteins of interest to measure co-transport of the protein and the RNA to different cellular regions.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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