The life of an mRNA in space and time

Ya'Ara Ben-Ari, Yehuda Brody, Noa Kinor, Amir Mor, Toshiro Tsukamoto, David L. Spector, Robert H. Singer, Yaron Shav-Tal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Nuclear transcribed genes produce mRNA transcripts destined to travel from the site of transcription to the cytoplasm for protein translation. Certain transcripts can be further localized to specific cytoplasmic regions. We examined the life cycle of a transcribed β-actin mRNA throughout gene expression and localization, in a cell system that allows the in vivo detection of the gene locus, the transcribed mRNAs and the cytoplasmic β-actin protein that integrates into the actin cytoskeleton. Quantification showed that RNA polymerase II elongation progressed at a rate of 3.3 kb/minute and that transactivator binding to the promoter was transient (40 seconds), and demonstrated the unique spatial structure of the coding and non-coding regions of the integrated gene within the transcription site. The rates of gene induction were measured during interphase and after mitosis, demonstrating that daughter cells were not synchronized in respect to transcription initiation of the studied gene. Comparison of the spatial and temporal kinetics of nucleoplasmic and cytoplasmic mRNA transport showed that the β-actin-localization response initiates from the existing cytoplasmic mRNA pool and not from the newly synthesized transcripts arising after gene induction. It was also demonstrated that mechanisms of random movement were predominant in mediating the efficient translocation of mRNA in the eukaryotic cell.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1761-1774
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - 15 May 2010


  • Gene expression
  • Live cell imaging
  • Transcription
  • mRNA dynamics


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