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Biol Cell. 2010 May 26;102(8):469-78. doi: 10.1042/BC20100034.

Visualizing protein interactions involved in the formation of the 42S RNP storage particle of Xenopus oocytes.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Biocenter, University of Würzburg, Würzburg, Germany.



During early phases of Xenopus oogenesis, 5S rRNA and tRNAs are stored in the cytoplasm of young oocytes in the form of a common RNA-protein complex termed the 42S particle. These storage particles comprise two kinds of proteins with different RNA binding specificities. The tRNA-binding protein 42Sp50 belongs to the EF1A (eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1A) family of translation elongation factors, while 42Sp43 is a diverged form of the transcription factor TFIIIA (transcription factor IIIA) and binds 5S rRNA. Little is known about the mode of protein-protein interactions that stabilize the 42S particle.


We have determined the intracellular localization of the protein components of the 42S particle by expressing fluorescent protein-tagged fusions in transparent previtellogenic oocytes. 42Sp50 and its isoforms (EF1A-S and EF1A-O) were excluded from the nuclei and distributed uniformly throughout the cytoplasm with no enrichment in the Balbiani bodies, as described earlier by immunocytochemistry. In contrast, 42Sp43 accumulated in the amplified nucleoli. However, when both proteins were simultaneously expressed, 42Sp43 was no longer present in the nucleoli but was retained, together with 42Sp50, in the cytoplasm, the most likely site of 42S particle assembly. In contrast, the somatic-type EF1A isoforms were unable to redirect 42Sp43 from the nucleolar to the cytoplasmic compartment. We also tested for in vivo interactions using transiently transfected mammalian cells (COS-7 cell line). In this heterologous cell system 42Sp43 remained bound to the nucleoli but, on co-expression, induced the redistribution of 42Sp50 from the cytoplasm to the nucleoli.


The microscopic approach described allows visualization of protein-protein interactions involved in the assembly of 42S storage particles. In particular, the transfection assay using COS-7 cells provides a rapid screening test that should facilitate identification of critical residues and structural determinants that enable the proteins of the 42S storage particle to interact with each other and to establish distinct higher-order RNP (ribonucleoprotein) complexes.

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