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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Jun 20, 1995; 92(13): 5915–5919.

Coiled bodies contain U7 small nuclear RNA and associate with specific DNA sequences in interphase human cells.


Coiled bodies (CBs) are nuclear organelles whose structures appear to be highly conserved in evolution. In rapidly cycling cells, they are typically located in the nucleoplasm but are often found in contact with the nucleolus. The CBs in human cells contain a unique protein, called p80-coilin. Studies on amphibian oocyte nuclei have revealed a protein within the "sphere" organelle that shares significant structural similarity to p80-coilin. Spheres and CBs are also highly enriched in small nuclear ribonucleoproteins and other RNA-processing components. We present evidence that, like spheres, CBs contain U7 small nuclear RNA (snRNA) and associate with specific chromosomal loci. Using biotinylated 2'-O-methyl oligonucleotides complementary to the 5' end of U7 snRNA and fluorescence in situ hybridization, we show that U7 is distributed throughout the nucleoplasm, excluding nucleoli, and is concentrated in CBs. Interestingly, we found that CBs often associate with subsets of the histone, U1, and U2 snRNA gene loci in interphase HeLa-ATCC and HEp-2 monolayer cells. However, in a strain of suspension-grown HeLa cells, called HeLa-JS1000, we found a much lower rate of association between CBs and snRNA genes. Possible roles for CBs in the metabolism of these various histone and snRNAs are discussed.

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