It’s Easy Being Green

Now RNA can glow in the cell, as only proteins could in the past.

By | January 1, 2012

image: It’s Easy Being Green

Finding out where specific RNA molecules are located in a cell just got a whole lot easier. Green fluorescent protein (GFP), makes protein localization in living cells, or even in whole animals, as simple as cloning a gene. But until now, there wasn’t an equivalent for RNA.

The number of noncoding RNA types known to biologists (such as transfer-, small nucleolar-, and microRNAs) has increased in recent years, and many of them have “completely mysterious” functions, says Samie Jaffrey at Weill Medical College, Cornell University. So he devised a way of directly labeling RNA with a fluorescent tag.

Jaffrey designed synthetic versions of the fluorescent moiety of GFP, called HBI, which is much smaller than the complete protein. Then, using a kind of in vitro evolution, he selected for RNA molecules that could bind the GFP-like fluorophores with high affinity and cause the complex to fluoresce when illuminated. A particular RNA gave the brightest green fluorescence when complexed with a synthetic HBI, so Jaffrey dubbed it “Spinach.” He found that he could engineer the transcription of Spinach coupled to any RNA of interest. Katrin Karbstein at the Scripps Research Institute in Jupiter, Florida, says that “any idiot could use” the technique. Currently, Jaffrey’s lab is developing orange and red versions, called Carrot and Radish, because red light penetrates tissues better than green and could therefore be used in living animals. (Science, 333:642-46, 2011.)

 

STATS TALK
Comparing Methods: MACROMOLECULE SIZE PHOTO-BLEACHING QUANTUM YIELD MATERIAL REQUIRED
GFP protein 238 amino acids yes 0.79 expressed gene
Spinach RNA 80 nucleotides no 0.72 expressed gene + synthetic fluorophore in culture medium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisement

Add a Comment

Avatar of: You

You

Processing...
Processing...

Sign In with your LabX Media Group Passport to leave a comment

Not a member? Register Now!

LabX Media Group Passport Logo
Advertisement

Popular Now

  1. Most Earth-like Planet Found
  2. AAAAA Is for Arrested Translation
  3. The Sum of Our Parts
    Features The Sum of Our Parts

    Putting the microbiome front and center in health care, in preventive strategies, and in health-risk assessments could stem the epidemic of noncommunicable diseases.

  4. Four-legged Snake Fossil Found
Advertisement
NeuroScientistNews
NeuroScientistNews
Advertisement
The Scientist