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Annu Rev Biophys. 2018 May 20;47:85-106. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biophys-070317-033037. Epub 2018 Jan 18.

Imaging mRNA In Vivo, from Birth to Death.

Author information

1
Department of Anatomy and Structural Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461; email: evelina.tutucci@einstein.yu.edu , robert.singer@einstein.yu.edu.
2
Center for Cell Dynamics, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.
3
Department of Biophysics and Biophysical Chemistry, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205.
4
Gruss-Lipper Biophotonics Center, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, New York 10461.
5
Cellular Imaging Consortium, Janelia Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Ashburn, Virginia 20147.
6
The Solomon H. Snyder Department of Neuroscience, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland 21205; email: nliving5@jhmi.edu , bwu20@jhmi.edu.

Abstract

RNA is the fundamental information transfer system in the cell. The ability to follow single messenger RNAs (mRNAs) from transcription to degradation with fluorescent probes gives quantitative information about how the information is transferred from DNA to proteins. This review focuses on the latest technological developments in the field of single-mRNA detection and their usage to study gene expression in both fixed and live cells. By describing the application of these imaging tools, we follow the journey of mRNA from transcription to decay in single cells, with single-molecule resolution. We review current theoretical models for describing transcription and translation that were generated by single-molecule and single-cell studies. These methods provide a basis to study how single-molecule interactions generate phenotypes, fundamentally changing our understating of gene expression regulation.

KEYWORDS:

gene expression; imaging; kinetics; single-cell; single-mRNA imaging; single-molecule

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