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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1998 May 26;95(11):6043-8.

Intranuclear diffusion and hybridization state of oligonucleotides measured by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy in living cells.

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  • 1Worcester Foundation for Biomedical Research, University of Massachusetts Medical Center, Worcester Foundation Campus, Shrewsbury, MA 01545, USA.


Fluorescein-labeled oligodeoxynucleotides (oligos) were introduced into cultured rat myoblasts, and their molecular movements inside the nucleus were studied by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) and fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP). FCS revealed that a large fraction of both intranuclear oligo(dT) (43%) and oligo(dA) (77%) moves rapidly with a diffusion coefficient of 4 x 10(-7) cm2/s. Interestingly, this rate of intranuclear oligo movement is similar to their diffusion rates measured in aqueous solution. In addition, we detected a large fraction (45%) of the intranuclear oligo(dT), but not oligo(dA), diffusing at slower rates (</=1 x 10(-7) cm2/s). The amount of this slower-moving oligo(dT) was greatly reduced if the oligo(dT) was prehybridized in solution with (unlabeled) oligo(dA) prior to introduction to cells, presumably because the oligo(dT) was then unavailable for subsequent hybridization to endogenous poly(A) RNA. The FCS-measured diffusion rate for much of the slower oligo(dT) population approximated the diffusion rate in aqueous solution of oligo(dT) hybridized to a large polyadenylated RNA (1.0 x 10(-7) cm2/s). Moreover, this intranuclear movement rate falls within the range of calculated diffusion rates for an average-sized heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle in aqueous solution. A subfraction of oligo(dT) (15%) moved over 10-fold more slowly, suggesting it was bound to very large macromolecular complexes. Average diffusion coefficients obtained from FRAP experiments were in agreement with the FCS data. These results demonstrate that oligos can move about within the nucleus at rates comparable to those in aqueous solution and further suggest that this is true for large ribonucleoprotein complexes as well.

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