An unbiased analysis method to quantify mRNA localization reveals its correlation with cell motility

Cell Rep. 2012 Feb 23;1(2):179-84. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2011.12.009. Epub 2012 Feb 16.


Localization of mRNA is a critical mechanism used by a large fraction of transcripts to restrict its translation to specific cellular regions. Although current high-resolution imaging techniques provide ample information, the analysis methods for localization have either been qualitative or employed quantification in nonrandomly selected regions of interest. Here, we describe an analytical method for objective quantification of mRNA localization using a combination of two characteristics of its molecular distribution, polarization and dispersion. The validity of the method is demonstrated using single-molecule FISH images of budding yeast and fibroblasts. Live-cell analysis of endogenous β-actin mRNA in mouse fibroblasts reveals that mRNA polarization has a half-life of ~16 min and is cross-correlated with directed cell migration. This novel approach provides insights into the dynamic regulation of mRNA localization and its physiological roles.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Movement / genetics*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Computer Simulation
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • In Situ Hybridization
  • Mice
  • Monte Carlo Method
  • RNA Transport / genetics*
  • RNA, Messenger / analysis*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / cytology
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / metabolism


  • Actins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins