The nuclear matrix is concealed by a much larger mass of chromatin, which can be removed selectively by digesting nuclei with DNase I followed by elution of chromatin with 0.25 M ammonium sulfate. This mild procedure removes chromatin almost completely and preserves nuclear matrix morphology. The complete nuclear matrix consists of a nuclear lamina with an interior matrix composed of thick, polymorphic fibers and large masses that resemble remnant nucleoli. Further extraction of the nuclear matrices of HeLa or MCF-7 cells with 2 M sodium chloride uncovered a network of core filaments. A few dark masses remained enmeshed in the filament network and may be remnants of the nuclear matrix thick fibers and nucleoli. The highly branched core filaments had diameters of 9 and 13 nm measured relative to the intermediate filaments. They may serve as the core structure around which the matrix is constructed. The core filaments retained 70% of nuclear RNA. This RNA consisted both of ribosomal RNA precursors and of very high molecular weight hnRNA with a modal size of 20 kb. Treatment with RNase A removed the core filaments. When 2 M sodium chloride was used directly to remove chromatin after DNase I digestion without a preceding 0.25 M ammonium sulfate extraction, the core filaments were not revealed. Instead, the nuclear interior was filled with amorphous masses that may cover the filaments. This reflected a requirement for a stepwise increase in ionic strength because gradual addition of sodium chloride to a final concentration of 2 M without an 0.25 M ammonium sulfate extraction uncovered core filaments.

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