PerspectiveMolecular Biology

Time-Lapse Transcription

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Science  22 Apr 2011:
Vol. 332, Issue 6028, pp. 431-432
DOI: 10.1126/science.1205995

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Measurements that involve averaging values from large numbers of cells can obscure the fact that processes such as gene expression are fundamentally dynamic and can vary greatly from cell to cell (1). Similarly, static snapshots of individual cells can reveal instantaneous differences between cells but cannot reveal often important changes over time; for example, it is impossible to tell whether a yellow light follows a green light using only static pictures of traffic lights. On pages 472 and 475 of this issue, Suter et al. (2) and Larson et al. (3) report on using a time-lapse approach to document the dynamics of a key cellular process, RNA transcription. Using carefully constructed experimental systems and sophisticated analyses, they tracked changes in RNA transcription in single live cells. Their results provide new details about the dynamics of key steps in transcription.