Direct observation of individual endogenous protein complexes in situ by proximity ligation

Nat Methods. 2006 Dec;3(12):995-1000. doi: 10.1038/nmeth947. Epub 2006 Oct 29.


Cellular processes can only be understood as the dynamic interplay of molecules. There is a need for techniques to monitor interactions of endogenous proteins directly in individual cells and tissues to reveal the cellular and molecular architecture and its responses to perturbations. Here we report our adaptation of the recently developed proximity ligation method to examine the subcellular localization of protein-protein interactions at single-molecule resolution. Proximity probes-oligonucleotides attached to antibodies against the two target proteins-guided the formation of circular DNA strands when bound in close proximity. The DNA circles in turn served as templates for localized rolling-circle amplification (RCA), allowing individual interacting pairs of protein molecules to be visualized and counted in human cell lines and clinical specimens. We used this method to show specific regulation of protein-protein interactions between endogenous Myc and Max oncogenic transcription factors in response to interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma) signaling and low-molecular-weight inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Physiological Phenomena*
  • Image Enhancement / methods*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • Protein Interaction Mapping / methods*
  • Proteins / metabolism*


  • Proteins