Ultrastructural visualization of cytoskeletal mRNAs and their associated proteins using double-label in situ hybridization

R. H. Singer, G. L. Langevin, J. B. Lawrence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

133 Scopus citations


We have been able to visualize cytoskeletal messenger RNA molecules at high resolution using nonisotopic in situ hybridization followed by whole-mount electron microscopy. Biotinated cDNA probes for actin, tubulin, or vimentin mRNAs were hybridized to Triton-extracted chicken embryo fibroblasts and myoblasts. The cells were then exposed to antibodies against biotin followed by colloidal gold-conjugated antibodies and then critical-point dried. Identification of mRNA was possible using a probe fragmented to small sizes such that hybridization of several probe fragments along the mRNA was detected as a string of colloidal gold particles qualitatively and quantitatively distinguishable from nonspecific background. Extensive analysis showed that when eight gold particles were seen in this iterated array, the signal to noise ratio was >30:1. Furthermore, these gold particles were colinear, often spiral, or circular suggesting detection of a single nucleic acid molecule. Antibodies against actin, vimentin, or tubulin proteins were used after in situ hybridization, allowing simultaneous detection of the protein and its cognate message on the same sample. This revealed that cytoskeletal mRNAs are likely to be extremely close to actin protein (5 nm or less) and unlikely to be within 20 nm of vimentin or tubulin filaments. Actin mRNA was found to be more predominant in lamellipodia of motile cells, confirming previous results. These results indicate that this high resolution in situ hybridization approach is a powerful tool by which to investigate the association of mRNA with the cytoskeleton.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2343-2353
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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