Single-mRNA detection in living S. cerevisiae using a re-engineered MS2 system

Evelina Tutucci, Maria Vera, Robert H. Singer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The MS2 system has been widely used, in organisms ranging from bacteria to higher eukaryotes, to image single mRNAs in intact cells with high precision. We have recently re-engineered the MS2 system for accurate detection of mRNAs in living Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Previous MS2 systems affected the degradation of the tagged mRNA, which led to accumulation of MS2 fragments and to erroneous conclusions about mRNA localization and expression. Here we describe a step-by-step protocol for the use of our latest MS2 system (MBSV6) for detecting endogenously tagged mRNAs using wide-field fluorescent microscopy in living yeast. The procedure is divided into three stages: tagging of endogenous gene with MBSV6 (~2 weeks), a two-color single-molecule RNA fluorescent in situ hybridization (smFISH) procedure to quantitatively assess whether mRNAs tagged with MS2 and MS2-coat protein (MCP) behave like untagged mRNAs (2 d, plus additional time for quantification), and a procedure to quantify single mRNAs by live imaging using wide-field microscopy (1 d, plus additional time for quantification). With this method it is now possible to interrogate all phases of mRNA expression, from transcription through decay. The described protocol is designed for S. cerevisiae; however, we think that our approach and the considerations discussed here can be extended to Escherichia coli, Drosophila, Caenorhabditis elegans, and mammalian cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2268-2296
Number of pages29
JournalNature Protocols
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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