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Molecular anatomy of a speckle.

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Department of Cell Biology, University of Massachusetts Medical School, Worcester, 01655, USA.


Direct localization of specific genes, RNAs, and proteins has allowed the dissection of individual nuclear speckles in relation to the molecular biology of gene expression. Nuclear speckles (aka SC35 domains) are essentially ubiquitous structures enriched for most pre-mRNA metabolic factors, yet their relationship to gene expression has been poorly understood. Analyses of specific genes and their spliced or mature mRNA strongly support that SC35 domains are hubs of activity, not stores of inert factors detached from gene expression. We propose that SC35 domains are hubs that spatially link expression of specific pre-mRNAs to rapid recycling of copious RNA metabolic complexes, thereby facilitating expression of many highly active genes. In addition to increasing the efficiency of each step, sequential steps in gene expression are structurally integrated at each SC35 domain, consistent with other evidence that the biochemical machineries for transcription, splicing, and mRNA export are coupled. Transcription and splicing are subcompartmentalized at the periphery, with largely spliced mRNA entering the domain prior to export. In addition, new findings presented here begin to illuminate the structural underpinnings of a speckle by defining specific perturbations of phosphorylation that promote disassembly or assembly of an SC35 domain in relation to other components. Results thus far are consistent with the SC35 spliceosome assembly factor as an integral structural component. Conditions that disperse SC35 also disperse poly(A) RNA, whereas the splicing factor ASF/SF2 can be dispersed under conditions in which SC35 or SRm300 remain as intact components of a core domain.

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