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Biological Procedures Online

Open Access

Visualizing the needle in the haystack: In situ hybridization with fluorescent dendrimers

  • Jacquelyn Gerhart1Email author,
  • Michael Baytion2,
  • Jordanna Perlman3,
  • Christine Neely1,
  • Bridget Hearon4,
  • Thor Nilsen5,
  • Robert Getts5,
  • James Kadushin5 and
  • Mindy George-Weinstein1
Biological Procedures Online6:610149

Received: 8 June 2004

Accepted: 6 July 2004


In situ hybridization with 3DNA™ dendrimers is a novel tool for detecting low levels of mRNA in tissue sections and whole embryos. Fluorescently labeled dendrimers were used to identify cells that express mRNA for the skeletal muscle transcription factor MyoD in the early chick embryo. A small population of MyoD mRNA positive cells was found in the epiblast prior to the initiation of gastrulation, two days earlier than previously detected using enzymatic or radiolabeled probes for mRNA. When isolated from the epiblast and placed in culture, the MyoD mRNA positive cells were able to differentiate into skeletal muscle cells. These results demonstrate that DNA dendrimers are sensitive and precise tools for identifying low levels of mRNA in single cells and tissues.

Indexing terms

MyoD proteinIn situ hybridization