Cytoplasmic mRNA movements ultimately determine the spatial distribution of protein synthesis. Although some mRNAs are compartmentalized in cytoplasmic regions, most mRNAs, such as housekeeping mRNAs or the poly-adenylated mRNA population, are believed to be distributed throughout the cytoplasm [1-4]. The general mechanism by which all mRNAs may move, and how this may be related to localization, is unknown. Here, we report a method to visualize single mRNA molecules in living mammalian cells, and we report that, regardless of any specific cytoplasmic distribution, individual mRNA molecules exhibit rapid and directional movements on microtubules. Importantly, the β-actin mRNA zipcode increased both the frequency and length of these movements, providing a common mechanistic basis for both localized and non-localized mRNAs. Disruption of the cytoskeleton with drugs showed that microtubules and microfilaments are involved in the types of mRNA movements we have observed, which included complete immobility and corralled and nonrestricted diffusion. Individual mRNA molecules switched frequently among these movements, suggesting that mRNAs undergo continuous cycles of anchoring, diffusion, and active transport.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)