Probing gene expression in live cells, one protein molecule at a time

Ji Yu, Jie Xiao, Xiaojia Ren, Kaiqin Lao, X. Sunney Xie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We directly observed real-time production of single protein molecules in individual Escherichia coli cells. A fusion protein of a fast-maturing yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) and a membrane-targeting peptide was expressed under a repressed condition. The membrane-localized YFP can be detected with single-molecule sensitivity. We found that the protein molecules are produced in bursts, with each burst originating from a stochastically transcribed single messenger RNA molecule, and that protein copy numbers in the bursts follow a geometric distribution. The quantitative study of low-level gene expression demonstrates the potential of single-molecule experiments in elucidating the workings of fundamental biological processes in living cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1600-1603
Number of pages4
JournalScience
Volume311
Issue number5767
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 17 2006
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General

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