A general method to introduce RNA molecules into plant protoplasts and animal cells is described. This technique utilizes the ability of electric pulses of high field strength to form pores in biomembranes. RNA molecules containing the coding region for the bacterial enzyme chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) were used as a model system. The presence of CAT activity as a result of the in vivo translation of the introduced RNA is entirely dependent on the presence of a 5′ cap and greatly increased by the presence of a poly A tail at the 3′ end. The introduction of RNA into eukaiyotic cells has broad applicability both as an assay for the uptake of nucleic acids into cells independent of transcriptional activity and as a tool to study eukaryotic mRNA translation.
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