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Visualizing Long-Term Single-Molecule Dynamics in vivo by Stochastic Protein Labeling

By Hui Liu, Peng Dong, Maria S. Ioannou, Li Li, Jamien Shea, H. Amalia Pasolli, Jonathan Grimm, Pat Rivlin, Luke Lavis, Minoru Koyama, Zhe Liu

Posted 13 Mar 2017
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/116186 (published DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1713895115)

Our ability to unambiguously image and track individual molecules in live cells is limited by packing of multiple copies of labeled molecules within the resolution limit. Here we devise a universal genetic strategy to precisely control copy number of fluorescently labeled molecules in a cell. This system has a dynamic titration range of >10,000 fold, enabling sparse labeling of proteins expressed at different abundance levels. Combined with photostable labels, this system extends the duration of automated single-molecule tracking by 2 orders of magnitude. We demonstrate long-term imaging of synaptic vesicle dynamics in cultured neurons as well as in intact zebrafish. We found axon initial segment utilizes a "waterfall" mechanism gating synaptic vesicle transport polarity by promoting anterograde transport processivity. Long-time observation also reveals that transcription factor hops between clustered binding sites in spatially-restricted sub-nuclear regions, suggesting that topological structures in the nucleus shape local gene activities by a sequestering mechanism. This strategy thus greatly expands the spatiotemporal length scales of live-cell single-molecule measurements, enabling new experiments to quantitatively understand complex control of molecular dynamics in vivo.

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