Visualizing Transcriptional Kinetics in Real Time

Interesting publication today in Nature Methods by Israeli scientists who have generated a system for visualizing mRNA transcription in-vivo in real time.

Essentially the group engineered the cyclin D1 gene to bind GFP protein as soon as it has been transcribed. This enabled them to analyze cyclin D1 mRNA production via GFP signal in real time. The group engineered the cell line with a targeted sequence in its genome that ensures that any sequence sent in goes to the correct place and is not plagued by random genome incorporation that has plagued other studies.

The significance in this study is that it is the first time that scientists have been able to view real time expression of a single gene in a single cell.

One important finding of the study is that it confirms,through imaging techniques, that mRNA production is accomplished through periodic bursts rather than via a smooth, uninterrupted process. In the video below, posted on the scientist you can see the transcribing “mother” transcription site and the emergence of the “daughter” transcribing allele situated right beside it. Notice how after replication the cell contains double the amount of DNA which is visualized as periodic bursts of light.

Gordon Hager, a cell biologist at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland told Nature News that “this represents the continuing evolution of a technology that is going to revolutionize the way people think about biology.”

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