A perspective of the dynamic structure of the nucleus explored at the single-molecule level
At the time of publication, David Grünwald was not yet affiliated with the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
Cellular life can be described as a dynamic equilibrium of a highly complex network of interacting molecules. For this reason, it is no longer sufficient to "only" know the identity of the participants in a cellular process, but questions such as where, when, and for how long also have to be addressed to understand the mechanism being investigated. Additionally, ensemble measurements may not sufficiently describe individual steps of molecular mobility, spatial-temporal resolution, kinetic parameters, and geographical mapping. It is vital to investigate where individual steps exactly occur to enhance our understanding of the living cell. The nucleus, home too many highly complex multi-order processes, such as replication, transcription, splicing, etc., provides a complicated, heterogeneous landscape. Its dynamics were studied to a new level of detail by fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS). Single-molecule tracking, while still in its infancy in cell biology, is becoming a more and more attractive method to deduce key elements of this organelle. Here we discuss the potential of tracking single RNAs and proteins in the nucleus. Their dynamics, localization, and interaction rates will be vital to our understanding of cellular life. To demonstrate this, we provide a review of the HIV life cycle, which is an extremely elegant balance of nuclear and cytoplasmic functions and provides an opportunity to study mechanisms deeply integrated within the structure of the nucleus. In summary, we aim to present a specific, dynamic view of nuclear cellular life based on single molecule and FCS data and provide a prospective for the future.