Authors: Tatjana Trcek, Timothée Lionnet, Hari Shroff & Ruth Lehmann
Spatial information is critical to the interrogation of developmental and tissue-level regulation of gene expression. However, this information is usually lost when global mRNA levels from tissues are measured using reverse transcriptase pcr, microarray analysis or high-throughput sequencing. By contrast, single-molecule fluorescence in situ hybridization (smFISsH) preserves the spatial information of the cellular mRNA content with subcellular resolution within tissues. Here we describe an smFIsH protocol that allows for the quantification of single mRNArnas in Drosophila embryos, using commercially available smFISsH probes (e.g., short fluorescently labeled DNA oligonucleotides) in combination with wide-field epifluorescence, confocal or instant structured illumination microscopy (iSsIM, a super-resolution imaging approach) and a spot-detection algorithm. Fixed Drosophila embryos are hybridized in solution with a mixture of smFISsH probes, mounted onto coverslips and imaged in 3D. Individual fluorescently labeled mRNArnas are then localized within tissues and counted using spot-detection software to generate quantitative, spatially resolved gene expression data sets. With minimum guidance, a graduate student can successfully implement this protocol. The smFIsH procedure described here can be completed in 4–5 d.