We report studies using an enhanced experimental system to investigate organization of nuclear pre-mRNA metabolism. It is based on the powerful genetic system and polytene nuclei of Drosophila. We observe (at steady state) movement of a specific pre-mRNA between its gene and the nuclear surface. This movement is isotropic, at rates consistent with diffusion and is restricted to a small nuclear subcompartment defined by exclusion from chromosome axes and the nucleolus. Bulk polyadenylated nuclear pre-mRNA precisely localizes in this same subcompartment indicating that most or all pre-mRNAs use the same route of intranuclear movement. In addition to association with nascent transcripts, snRNPs are coconcentrated with pre-mRNA in this subcompartment. In contrast to constitutive splices, at least one regulated splice occurs slowly and may undergo execution remotely from the site of pre-mRNA synthesis. Details of our results suggest that retention of incompletely spliced pre-mRNA is a function of the nuclear surface. We propose a simple model--based on channeled diffusion--for organization of intranuclear transport and metabolism of pre-mRNAs in polytene nuclei. We argue that this model can be generalized to all metazoan nuclei.

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