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Biochemistry. 2018 May 1;57(17):2462-2469. doi: 10.1021/acs.biochem.7b01262. Epub 2018 Mar 7.

Dynamics and Function of Nuclear Bodies during Embryogenesis.

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Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry , Yale University , New Haven , Connecticut 06520-8114 , United States.


Nuclear bodies are RNA-rich membraneless organelles in the cell nucleus that concentrate specific sets of nuclear proteins and RNA-protein complexes. Nuclear bodies such as the nucleolus, Cajal body (CB), and the histone locus body (HLB) concentrate factors required for nuclear steps of RNA processing. Formation of these nuclear bodies occurs on genomic loci and is frequently associated with active sites of transcription. Whether nuclear body formation is dependent on a particular gene element, an active process such as transcription, or the nascent RNA present at gene loci is a topic of debate. Recently, this question has been addressed through studies in model organisms and their embryos. The switch from maternally provided RNA and protein to zygotic gene products in early embryos has been well characterized in a variety of organisms. This process, termed maternal-to-zygotic transition, provides an excellent model for studying formation of nuclear bodies before, during, and after the transcriptional activation of the zygotic genome. Here, we review findings in embryos that reveal key principles in the study of the formation and function of nucleoli, CBs, and HLBs. We propose that while particular gene elements may contribute to formation of these nuclear bodies, active transcription promotes maturation of nuclear bodies and efficient RNA processing within them.

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