2020 Volume 17 Pages 36-41
The intracellular environment is highly crowded with biomacromolecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Under such conditions, the structural and biophysical features of nucleic acids have been thought to be different from those in vitro. To obtain high-resolution structural information on nucleic acids in living cells, the in-cell NMR method is a unique tool. Following the first in-cell NMR measurement of nucleic acids in 2009, several interesting insights were obtained using Xenopus laevis oocytes. However, the in-cell NMR spectrum of nucleic acids in living human cells was not reported until two years ago due to the technical challenges of delivering exogenous nucleic acids. We reported the first in-cell NMR spectra of nucleic acids in living human cells in 2018, where we applied a pore-forming toxic protein, streptolysin O. The in-cell NMR measurements demonstrated that the hairpin structures of nucleic acids can be detected in living human cells. In this review article, we summarize our recent work and discuss the future prospects of the in-cell NMR technique for nucleic acids.