Fluorescence imaging of cellular metabolites with RNA.

Department of Pharmacology, Weill Medical College, Cornell University, New York, NY 10065, USA.
Science (Impact Factor: 31.48). 03/2012; 335(6073):1194. DOI: 10.1126/science.1218298
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT Genetically encoded sensors are powerful tools for imaging intracellular metabolites and signaling molecules. However, developing sensors is challenging because they require proteins that undergo conformational changes upon binding the desired target molecule. We describe an approach for generating fluorescent sensors based on Spinach, an RNA sequence that binds and activates the fluorescence of a small-molecule fluorophore. We show that these sensors can detect a variety of different small molecules in vitro and in living cells. These RNAs constitute a versatile approach for fluorescence imaging of small molecules and have the potential to detect essentially any cellular biomolecule.

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    ABSTRACT: We describe design parameters for the synthesis and analytical application of a label-free RNA molecular beacon, termed Spinach.ST. The RNA aptamer Spinach fluoresces upon binding the small-molecule fluorophore DFHBI ((Z)-4-(3,5-difluoro-4-hydroxybenzylidene)-1,2-dimethyl-1H-imidazol-5(4H)-one). Spinach has been reengineered by extending its 5'- and 3'-ends to create Spinach.ST, which is predicted to fold into an inactive conformation that fails to bind DHFBI. Hybridization of a trigger oligonucleotide to a designed toehold on Spinach.ST initiates toehold-mediated strand displacement and restores the DFHBI-binding, fluorescence-enhancing conformation of Spinach. The versatile Spinach.ST sensor can detect DNA or RNA trigger sequences and can readily distinguish single-nucleotide mismatches in the trigger toehold. Primer design techniques are described that augment amplicons produced by enzymatic amplification with Spinach.ST triggers. Interaction between these triggers and Spinach.ST molecular beacons leads to the real-time, sequence-specific quantitation of these amplicons. The use of Spinach.ST with isothermal amplification reactions such as nucleic acid sequence-based amplification (NASBA) may enable point-of-care applications. The same design principles could also be used to adapt Spinach reporters to the assay of nonnucleic acid analytes in trans. © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Methods in enzymology. 01/2015; 550:215-49.
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    ABSTRACT: Genetically encodable RNA devices that directly detect small molecules in the cellular environment are of increasing interest for a variety of applications including live cell imaging and synthetic biology. Riboswitches are naturally occurring sensors of intracellular metabolites, primarily found in the bacterial mRNA leaders and regulating their expression. These regulatory elements are generally composed of two domains: an aptamer that binds a specific effector molecule and an expression platform that informs the transcriptional or translational machinery. While it was long established that riboswitch aptamers are modular and portable, capable of directing different output domains including ribozymes, switches, and fluorophore-binding modules, the same has not been demonstrated until recently for expression platforms. We have engineered and validated a set of expression platforms that regulate transcription through a secondary structural switch that can host a variety of different aptamers, including those derived through in vitro selection methods, to create novel chimeric riboswitches. These synthetic switches are capable of a highly specific regulatory response both in vitro and in vivo. Here we present the methodology for the design and engineering of chimeric switches using biological expression platforms. © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
    Methods in enzymology. 01/2015; 550:41-71.

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