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Exp Cell Res. 1997 May 25;233(1):155-68.

Reassembly of functional nucleoli following in situ unraveling by low-ionic-strength treatment of cultured mammalian cells.

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A.N. Belozersky Institute of Physical and Chemical Biology, Moscow State University, Russia.


In order to determine the most persistent components of the nucleolus that might serve as "core" nucleolar elements, we studied the reactivity of nucleoli in living mammalian cells subjected to hypotonic buffer saline followed by the incubation of the cells in an isotonic medium. To document as precisely as possible the fine structural changes which occurred, the cells were examined by video-enhanced optical microscopy, fluorescence confocal laser scanning microscopy, and electron microscopy combined with cytochemistry. Light microscopic autoradiography was used to demonstrate the transcriptional characteristics of the reassembled nucleoli. It was shown that all the major compartments of the intact nucleolus could be substantially affected by reduction of the osmolarity of the environmental media. The dynamic events of the nucleolar unraveling in low-salt buffers occurred in the following order: dispersion of the nucleolar pars granulosa, disassociation of the fibrillar complexes into discrete fibrillar centers (FCs) and the dense fibrillar component (DFC), and the almost complete unraveling of the DFC and FCs. At the terminal stages of nucleolar dispersion, the nuclear interior was mainly composed of a loose filamentous meshwork, and none of the typically discerned nucleolar constituents was recognized. Nevertheless, when hypotonically treated cells were returned to isotonic conditions, the nucleolar bodies rapidly began to reassemble. Within 1-2 h of cell incubation under isotonicity, the nucleoli not only became clearly visible, but also reconstituted to their initial size, shape, and position within the nucleus. The ultrastructure and functional activity of the reassembled nucleoli were also found to be fully comparable to those of the untreated controls. These data indicate that the architectural composition of the interphase nucleolus is strictly controlled by the cell. As far as could be determined, none of the usual substructures of the intact nucleolus that could be substituted by complete reassembly of the nucleolar bodies in normotonic conditions, including FCs and the DFC, remained clearly preserved in the terminal stage of nucleolar unraveling. We concluded that the integrity of the nucleolus was mainly preserved by the nuclear or nucleolar matrix system rather than by any other nucleolar structural domains.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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