CRISPR-Cas9 mediated labelling allows for single molecule imaging and resolution

Steven Thomas, Neil Morgan, Jeremy Pike, Victoria Simms, Abdullah Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Citations (Scopus)
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Single molecule imaging approaches like dSTORM and PALM resolve structures at 10–20 nm, and allow for unique insights into protein stoichiometry and spatial relationships. However, key obstacles remain in developing highly accurate quantitative single molecule approaches. The genomic tagging of PALM fluorophores through CRISPR-Cas9 offers an excellent opportunity for generating stable cell lines expressing a defined single molecule probe at endogenous levels, without the biological disruption and variability inherent to transfection. A fundamental question is whether these comparatively low levels of expression can successfully satisfy the stringent labelling demands of super-resolution SMLM. Here we apply CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing to tag a cytoskeletal protein (α-tubulin) and demonstrate a relationship between expression level and the subsequent quality of PALM imaging, and that spatial resolutions comparable to dSTORM can be achieved with CRISPR-PALM. Our approach shows a relationship between choice of tag and the total expression of labelled protein, which has important implications for the development of future PALM tags. CRISPR-PALM allows for nanoscopic spatial resolution and the unique quantitative benefits of single molecule localization microscopy through endogenous expression, as well as the capacity for super-resolved live cell imaging.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8450
JournalScientific Reports
Early online date16 Aug 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Aug 2017


  • Super-resolution microscopy
  • Gene expression


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