Live-cell imaging of endogenous mRNAs with a small molecule

Shin Ichi Sato, Mizuki Watanabe, Yousuke Katsuda, Asako Murata, Dan Ohtan Wang, Motonari Uesugi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Determination of subcellular localization and dynamics of mRNA is increasingly important to understanding gene expression. A new convenient and versatile method is reported that permits spatiotemporal imaging of specific nonengineered RNAs in living cells. The method uses transfection of a plasmid encoding a gene-specific RNA aptamer, combined with a cell-permeable synthetic small molecule, the fluorescence of which is restored only when the RNA aptamer hybridizes with its cognitive mRNA. The method was validated by live-cell imaging of the endogenous mRNA of b-actin. Application of the technology to mRNAs of a total of 84 human cytoskeletal genes allowed us to observe cellular dynamics of several endogenous mRNAs including arfaptin-2, cortactin, and cytoplasmic FMR1-interacting protein 2. The RNA-imaging technology and its further optimization might permit live-cell imaging of any RNA molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1855-1858
Number of pages4
JournalAngewandte Chemie - International Edition
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 9 2015


  • Fluorescence
  • Live-cell imaging
  • RNA
  • RNA dynamics
  • Small molecules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • General Chemistry


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