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


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.


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Correspondence to Jacquelyn Gerhart.

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Published: July 16, 2004.

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Gerhart, J., Baytion, M., Perlman, J. et al. Visualizing the needle in the haystack: In situ hybridization with fluorescent dendrimers. Biol. Proced. Online 6, 149–156 (2004).

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Indexing terms

  • MyoD protein
  • In situ hybridization