Recent advances in high-performance fluorescent and bioluminescent RNA imaging probes
RNA plays an important role in life processes. Imaging of messenger RNAs (mRNAs) and micro-RNAs (miRNAs) not only allows us to learn the formation and transcription of mRNAs and the biogenesis of miRNAs involved in various life processes, but also helps in detecting cancer. High-performance RNA imaging probes greatly expand our view of life processes and enhance the cancer detection accuracy. In this review, we summarize the state-of-the-art high-performance RNA imaging probes, including exogenous probes that can image RNA sequences with special modification and endogeneous probes that can directly image endogenous RNAs without special treatment. For each probe, we review its structure and imaging principle in detail. Finally, we summarize the application of mRNA and miRNA imaging probes in studying life processes as well as in detecting cancer. By correlating the structures and principles of various probes with their practical uses, we compare different RNA imaging probes and offer guidance for better utilization of the current imaging probes and the future design of higher-performance RNA imaging probes.