Mapping translation ’hot-spots’ in live cells by tracking single molecules of mRNA and ribosomes

Zachary B. Katz, Brian P. English, Timothée Lionnet, Young J. Yoon, Nilah Monnier, Ben Ovryn, Mark Bathe, Robert H. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Messenger RNA localization is important for cell motility by local protein translation. However, while single mRNAs can be imaged and their movements tracked in single cells, it has not yet been possible to determine whether these mRNAs are actively translating. Therefore, we imaged single b-actin mRNAs tagged with MS2 stem loops colocalizing with labeled ribosomes to determine when polysomes formed. A dataset of tracking information consisting of thousands of trajectories per cell demonstrated that mRNAs co-moving with ribosomes have significantly different diffusion properties from non-translating mRNAs that were exposed to translation inhibitors. These data indicate that ribosome load changes mRNA movement and therefore highly translating mRNAs move slower. Importantly, b-actin mRNA near focal adhesions exhibited subdiffusive corralled movement characteristic of increased translation. This method can identify where ribosomes become engaged for local protein production and how spatial regulation of mRNAprotein interactions mediates cell directionality.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere10415
Issue numberJANUARY2016
StatePublished - Jan 13 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)

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