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J Cell Sci. 2003 Nov 1;116(Pt 21):4455-66. Epub 2003 Sep 16.

Size, position and dynamic behavior of PML nuclear bodies following cell stress as a paradigm for supramolecular trafficking and assembly.

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  • 1Programme in Cell Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Canada.


The promyelocytic leukemia (PML) protein has been implicated in many cellular pathways, but it is unclear whether the accumulation of PML and other proteins into PML nuclear bodies is a regulated or random process. In this paper we have used a variety of physiological stresses, including heat stress, Cd+2 exposure and adenovirus E1A expression, as tools to study the principles underlying the assembly/disassembly, integrity and dynamic behavior of PML bodies. Using live-cell imaging and immunofluorescence microscopy, we observe that PML bodies are positionally stable over time intervals of a few hours. After stress, however, microstructures form as a result of fission or budding from the surface of 'parental' PML bodies. Since new PML bodies do not form at new locations, and the relative sizes observed before heat shock are preserved after recovery, we conclude that there are pre-determined locations for PML bodies, and that they are not random accumulations of protein. Over-expression of small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO-1) prevents stress-induced disassembly of PML bodies, implicating SUMO-1 as a key regulator of PML body integrity. Stress-induced fission of SUMO-1-deficient microstructures from parental PML bodies may be a mechanism to change local chromatin domain environments by the dispersal of protein factors. PML bodies may provide a useful paradigm for the dynamics and integrity of other supramolecular protein complexes involved in processes such as transcription, RNA processing DNA repair and replication.

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