Seeing single protein production

Papers in Nature and Science provide the first methods for observing translation of single protein molecules in real time

Melissa Lee Phillips
Mar 15, 2006
Researchers can now observe real-time production of individual proteins, according to two papers in this week's Science and Nature. The studies report two different methods of seeing the synthesis of single protein molecules in live cells -- an achievement the authors say will be especially useful for studying proteins found in low-copy numbers."The single-molecule approach really is a powerful one" for studying how proteins are made and operate in live cells, said X. Sunney Xie of Harvard University, senior author of both papers. "This process has never been viewed directly in a live cell in real time on a single-molecule basis."Researchers have been able to track mRNA transcription at the single-molecule level, Xie said, but no one has done the same for protein translation. Fluorescence-tagged proteins diffuse around the cytoplasm of live cells, and the signal of one protein will not show up against the cell's background...

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