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Dev Biol. 2000 Jan 15;217(2):221-9.

The targeting of Xcat2 mRNA to the germinal granules depends on a cis-acting germinal granule localization element within the 3'UTR.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Houston, Texas, 77030, USA.


The germ cell lineage is specified by the germ plasm, which in Xenopus laevis contains putative determinants called germinal granules. The pathway through which these structures form and how their components are assembled remain unclear. Using a combination of electron microscopy and in situ hybridization with the germinal granule-associated Xcat2 mRNA we demonstrated that the granules were derived from a branching network of granulofibrillar material within the mitochondrial cloud. Targeting of Xcat2 mRNA to the germinal granules depended on a 164-nt 3'UTR germinal granule localization element (GGLE; nt 631-795) that was distinct from the previously defined mitochondrial cloud localization element (MCLE; nt 403-630; Y. Zhou and M. L. King, 1996, Development 122, 2947-2953). This demonstrated that the Xcat 3'UTR contains a compound localization element consisting of a general element (MCLE) targeting the RNA to the mitochondrial cloud and a second element (GGLE) responsible for targeting to the germinal granules within the cloud. The GGLE when fused to Xlsirt RNA was sufficient to target this nongranule mitochondrial cloud-associated RNA to the germinal granules. This is the first example of a localization element involved in targeting an mRNA to a specific subcellular target such as the germinal granules and suggests that cis-acting elements on RNAs play an important role in the assembly of germinal granules and, therefore, the establishment of the germ cell lineage.

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