Assembly of the nuclear transcription and processing machinery: Cajal bodies (coiled bodies) and transcriptosomes

Joseph G. Gall, Michel Bellini, Zheng'an Wu, Christine Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have examined the distribution of RNA transcription and processing factors in the amphibian oocyte nucleus or germinal vesicle. RNA polymerase I (pol I), pol II, and pol III occur in the Cajal bodies (coiled bodies) along with various components required for transcription and processing of the three classes of nuclear transcripts: mRNA, rRNA, and pol III transcripts. Among these components are transcription factor IIF (TFIIF), TFIIS, splicing factors, the U7 small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle, the stem-loop binding protein, SR proteins, cleavage and polyadenylation factors, small nucleolar RNAs, nucleolar proteins that are probably involved in pre-rRNA processing, and TFIIIA. Earlier studies and data presented here show that several of these components are first targeted to Cajal bodies when injected into the oocyte and only subsequently appear in the chromosomes or nucleoli, where transcription itself occurs. We suggest that pol I, pol II, and pol III transcription and processing components are preassembled in Cajal bodies before transport to the chromosomes and nucleoli. Most components of the pol II transcription and processing pathway that occur in Cajal bodies are also found in the many hundreds of B-snurposomes in the germinal vesicle. Electron microscopic images show that B-snurposomes consist primarily, if not exclusively, of 20- to 30-nm particles, which closely resemble the inter- chromatin granules described from sections of somatic nuclei. We suggest the name pol II transcriptosome for these particles to emphasize their content of factors involved in synthesis and processing of mRNA transcripts. We present a model in which pol I, pol II, and pol III transcriptosomes are assembled in the Cajal bodies before export to the nucleolus (pol I), to the B-snurposomes and eventually to the chromosomes (pol II), and directly to the chromosomes (pol III). The key feature of this model is the preassembly of the transcription and processing machinery into unitary particles. An analogy can be made between ribosomes and transcriptosomes, ribosomes being unitary particles involved in translation and transcriptosomes being unitary particles for transcription and processing of RNA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4385-4402
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Assembly of the nuclear transcription and processing machinery: Cajal bodies (coiled bodies) and transcriptosomes'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this