Single-cell Multiplexed Fluorescence Imaging to Visualize Viral Nucleic Acids and Proteins and Monitor HIV, HTLV, HBV, HCV, Zika Virus, and Influenza Infection

J Vis Exp. 2020 Oct 29;(164):10.3791/61843. doi: 10.3791/61843.


Capturing the dynamic replication and assembly processes of viruses has been hindered by the lack of robust in situ hybridization (ISH) technologies that enable sensitive and simultaneous labeling of viral nucleic acid and protein. Conventional DNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) methods are often not compatible with immunostaining. We have therefore developed an imaging approach, MICDDRP (multiplex immunofluorescent cell-based detection of DNA, RNA and protein), which enables simultaneous single-cell visualization of DNA, RNA, and protein. Compared to conventional DNA FISH, MICDDRP utilizes branched DNA (bDNA) ISH technology, which dramatically improves oligonucleotide probe sensitivity and detection. Small modifications of MICDDRP enable imaging of viral proteins concomitantly with nucleic acids (RNA or DNA) of different strandedness. We have applied these protocols to study the life cycles of multiple viral pathogens, including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-1, human T-lymphotropic virus (HTLV)-1, hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), Zika virus (ZKV), and influenza A virus (IAV). We demonstrated that we can efficiently label viral nucleic acids and proteins across a diverse range of viruses. These studies can provide us with improved mechanistic understanding of multiple viral systems, and in addition, serve as a template for application of multiplexed fluorescence imaging of DNA, RNA, and protein across a broad spectrum of cellular systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Viral / analysis*
  • DNA, Viral / genetics
  • HIV-1 / genetics
  • Hepacivirus / genetics
  • Hepatitis B virus / genetics
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • Optical Imaging*
  • Orthomyxoviridae / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / analysis*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • Single-Cell Analysis*
  • Viral Proteins / analysis*
  • Virus Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Virus Diseases / genetics*
  • Zika Virus / genetics


  • DNA, Viral
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Proteins