Comparing agent‐based delivery of DNA and PNA forced intercalation (FIT) probes for multicolor mRNA imaging


  • J. Chamiolo
  • G.M. Fang
  • F. Hövelmann
  • D. Friedrich
  • A. Knoll
  • A. Loewer
  • O. Seitz


  • ChemBioChem


  • ChemBioChem 20 (4): 595-604


  • Fluorogenic oligonucleotide probes allow mRNA imaging in living cells. A key challenge is the cellular delivery of probes. Most delivery agents, such as cell-penetrating peptides (CPPs) and pore-forming proteins, require interactions with the membrane. Charges play an important role. To explore the influence of charge on fluorogenic properties and delivery efficiency, we compared peptide nucleic acid (PNA)- with DNA-based forced intercalation (FIT) probes. Perhaps counterintuitively, fluorescence signaling by charged DNA FIT probes proved tolerant to CPP conjugation, whereas CPP–FIT PNA conjugates were affected. Live-cell imaging was performed with a genetically engineered HEK293 cell line to allow the inducible expression of a specific mRNA target. Blob-like features and high background were recurring nuisances of the tested CPP and lipid conjugates. By contrast, delivery by streptolysin-O provided high enhancements of the fluorescence of the FIT probe upon target induction. Notably, DNA-based FIT probes were brighter and more responsive than PNA-based FIT probes. Optimized conditions enabled live-cell multicolor imaging of three different mRNA target sequences.