Genetic encoding of fluorescent RNA ensures a bright future for visualizing nucleic acid dynamics

Trends Biotechnol. 2012 Dec;30(12):621-6. doi: 10.1016/j.tibtech.2012.09.004. Epub 2012 Nov 2.


Recently RNA localization has been appreciated as an essential post-transcriptional mechanism to program local proteome composition and function. Although RNA has been visualized using diverse techniques, the use of the bacteriophage MS2 method to encode genetically fluorescent RNA has revolutionized the study of RNA dynamics in living cells. Here, I highlight the strength of MS2 compared to other techniques, and how further evolution of this system will enable the visualization of RNA in the context of complex live-cell dynamics. Although the generation of MS2-fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) and MS2-bifluorescence complementation (BiFC) will require further development, it has the potential to increase significantly the signal-to-noise ratio, which is the major obstacle to rapid live-cell imaging of RNA.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry*
  • Humans
  • Levivirus / genetics*
  • Mice
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods*
  • RNA / genetics*
  • Single-Cell Analysis / methods*


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • RNA