Understanding spatiotemporal coupling of gene expression using single molecule RNA imaging technologies

Alan Gerber, Sander van Otterdijk, Frank J. Bruggeman, Evelina Tutucci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Across all kingdoms of life, gene regulatory mechanisms underlie cellular adaptation to ever-changing environments. Regulation of gene expression adjusts protein synthesis and, in turn, cellular growth. Messenger RNAs are key molecules in the process of gene expression. Our ability to quantitatively measure mRNA expression in single cells has improved tremendously over the past decades. This revealed an unexpected coordination between the steps that control the life of an mRNA, from transcription to degradation. Here, we provide an overview of the state-of-the-art imaging approaches for measurement and quantitative understanding of gene expression, starting from the early visualizations of single genes by electron microscopy to current fluorescence-based approaches in single cells, including live-cell RNA-imaging approaches to FISH-based spatial transcriptomics across model organisms. We also highlight how these methods have shaped our current understanding of the spatiotemporal coupling between transcriptional and post-transcriptional events in prokaryotes. We conclude by discussing future challenges of this multidisciplinary field. Abbreviations: mRNA: messenger RNA; rRNA: ribosomal rDNA; tRNA: transfer RNA; sRNA: small RNA; FISH: fluorescence in situ hybridization; RNP: ribonucleoprotein; smFISH: single RNA molecule FISH; smiFISH: single molecule inexpensive FISH; HCR-FISH: Hybridization Chain-Reaction-FISH; RCA: Rolling Circle Amplification; seqFISH: Sequential FISH; MERFISH: Multiplexed error robust FISH; UTR: Untranslated region; RBP: RNA binding protein; FP: fluorescent protein; eGFP: enhanced GFP, MCP: MS2 coat protein; PCP: PP7 coat protein; MB: Molecular beacons; sgRNA: single guide RNA.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
Early online date2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2023

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