Fluorescent turn-on probes for wash-free mRNA imaging via covalent site-specific enzymatic labeling†
Investigating the many roles RNA plays in cellular regulation and function has increased demand for tools to explore RNA tracking and localization within cells. Our recently reported RNA-TAG (transglycosylation at guanine) approach uses an RNA-modifying enzyme, tRNA-guanine transglycosylase (TGT), to accomplish covalent labeling of an RNA of interest with fluorescent tracking agents in a highly selective and efficient manner. Unfortunately, labeling by this method currently suffers from a high nonspecific fluorescent background and is currently unsuitable for imaging RNA within complex cellular environments. Herein we report the design and synthesis of novel fluorogenic thiazole orange probes that significantly lower nonspecific binding and background fluorescence and, as a result, provide up to a 100-fold fluorescence intensity increase after labeling. Using these fluorogenic labeling agents, we were able to image mRNA expressed in Chinese Hamster Ovary cells in a wash-free manner.