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Nucleic Acids Res. 2019 Oct 10;47(18):e109. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkz645.

Cytoplasmic DNA can be detected by RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization.

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The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences & Institute of Nanotechnology, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat Gan 5290002, Israel.


Fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) can be used for the intracellular detection of DNA or RNA molecules. The detection of DNA sequences by DNA FISH requires the denaturation of the DNA double helix to allow the hybridization of the fluorescent probe with DNA in a single stranded form. These hybridization conditions require high temperature and low pH that can damage RNA, and therefore RNA is not typically detectable by DNA FISH. In contrast, RNA FISH does not require a denaturation step since RNA is single stranded, and therefore DNA molecules are not detectable by RNA FISH. Hence, DNA FISH and RNA FISH are mutually exclusive. In this study, we show that plasmid DNA transiently transfected into cells is readily detectable in the cytoplasm by RNA FISH without need for denaturation, shortly after transfection and for several hours. The plasmids, however, are usually not detectable in the nucleus except when the plasmids are efficiently directed into the nucleus, which may imply a more open packaging state for DNA after transfection. This detection of plasmid DNA in the cytoplasm has implications for RNA FISH experiments and opens a window to study conditions when DNA is present in the cytoplasm.

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