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J Mol Biol. 1997 Apr 4;267(3):570-83.

Three-dimensional image reconstruction of large nuclear RNP (lnRNP) particles by automated electron tomography.

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Department of Genetics, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.


Nuclear RNA transcripts of split genes and their splicing products, as well as the general population of nuclear polyadenylated RNA are packaged in multi-component large nuclear ribonucleoprotein (lnRNP) particles. These lnRNP particles, which sediment at the 200 S region in sucrose gradients, contain all U small nuclear RNPs required for precursor messenger RNA (pre-mRNA) splicing and several protein splicing factors, including U2AF and the SR proteins. Electron microscopy of lnRNP particles revealed a large compact structure of 50 nm in diameter. In this study we employed automated computed tomography from electron micrographs for the three-dimensional (3D) image reconstruction of individual lnRNP particles isolated from mammalian cells nuclei and negatively stained. For each particle, a tilt series of 71 images was collected by direct digital recording of the images on a CCD camera attached to a computer controlled TEM facility. The 3D image was reconstructed according to the back projection principle. For rendering, real time display and comparison of the reconstructed particles, interactive computer graphics was employed. The reconstructed 3D images show a compact structure composed of four major subunits connected to each other. Comparison of the reconstructed lnRNP particles revealed morphological similarity of the individual particles, as well as similarity among the sub-structures. Based on these observations we propose a model for the packaging of nuclear pre-mRNAs in lnRNP particles where each substructure represents a functional unit. This model is compatible with the requirements for alternative splicing in multi-intronic pre-mRNAs, and with the fact that the splicing of multi-intronic pre-mRNAs does not occur in a sequential manner.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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