It’s Easy Being Green

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

Richard P. Grant
Jan 1, 2012

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...

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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