G Biffi, M Di Antonio, D Tannahill, S Balasubramanian
Following extensive evidence for the formation of four-stranded DNA G-quadruplex structures in vitro, DNA G-quadruplexes have been observed within human cells. Although chemically distinct, RNA can also fold in vitro into G-quadruplex structures that are highly stable because of the 2'-hydroxyl group. However, RNA G-quadruplexes have not yet been reported in cells. Here, we demonstrate the visualization of RNA G-quadruplex structures within the cytoplasm of human cells using a G-quadruplex structure-specific antibody. We also demonstrate that small molecules that bind to G-quadruplexes in vitro can trap endogenous RNA G-quadruplexes when applied to cells. Furthermore, a small molecule that exhibits a preference for RNA G-quadruplexes rather than DNA G-quadruplexes in biophysical experiments also shows the same selectivity within a cellular context. Our findings provide substantive evidence for RNA G-quadruplex formation in the human transcriptome, and corroborate the selectivity and application of stabilizing ligands that target G-quadruplexes within a cellular context.