An RNA biosensor for imaging the first round of translation from single cells to living animals

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Science  20 Mar 2015:
Vol. 347, Issue 6228, pp. 1367-1671
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3380

Measuring translation in space and time

The ribosome translates the information contained within messenger RNAs (mRNAs) into proteins. When and where ribosomes encounter mRNAs can regulate gene expression. Halstead et al. developed an RNA biosensor that allows single molecules of mRNAs that have never been translated to be distinguished from ones that have undergone translation by the ribosome in living cells (see the Perspective by Popp and Maquat). The authors demonstrated the utility of their technique by examining the spatial and temporal regulation of translation in single cells and in Drosophila oocytes during development.

Science, this issue p. 1367; see also p. 1316


Analysis of single molecules in living cells has provided quantitative insights into the kinetics of fundamental biological processes; however, the dynamics of messenger RNA (mRNA) translation have yet to be addressed. We have developed a fluorescence microscopy technique that reports on the first translation events of individual mRNA molecules. This allowed us to examine the spatiotemporal regulation of translation during normal growth and stress and during Drosophila oocyte development. We have shown that mRNAs are not translated in the nucleus but translate within minutes after export, that sequestration within P-bodies regulates translation, and that oskar mRNA is not translated until it reaches the posterior pole of the oocyte. This methodology provides a framework for studying initiation of protein synthesis on single mRNAs in living cells.

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