Most high school students can recite the central dogma of molecular biology: DNA makes RNA makes protein. We all know it. But have we ever seen it?
Parts of it, yes. DNA transcription, the first step in gene expression, has been quantified in real time. But the second step – the translation of genetic code into a protein – is much harder to see in living systems, and until now has eluded us.
In an unprecedented feat, Colorado State University biochemists have made a live-cell movie of RNA translation – the fundamental cellular process by which a ribosome decodes a protein.
Sixty years after Francis Crick first described it, CSU scientists have illuminated, in a single living cell, this final step of gene expression. Their tools: some clever protein engineering, and a custom-built microscope that can show single-RNA translation with nanoscale precision.
The breakthrough was led by Tim Stasevich, assistant professor in the College of Natural Sciences’ Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and published in the journal Science May 5. The paper’s first author is research associate Tatsuya Morisaki, who built the microscope and performed the experiments.