Murine erythroleukemia (MEL) cells are erythroid progenitors that can be induced to undergo terminal erythroid differentiation in culture. We have used MEL cells here as a model system to study the nuclear organization of splicing snRNPs during the physiological changes in gene expression which accompany differentiation. In uninduced MEL cells, snRNPs are widely distributed throughout the nucleoplasm and show an elevated concentration in coiled bodies. Within the first two days after induction of terminal erythroid differentiation, the pattern of gene expression changes, erythroid-specific transcription is activated and transcription of many other genes is repressed. During this early stage splicing snRNPs remain widely distributed through the nucleoplasm and continue to associate with coiled bodies. At later stages of differentiation (four to six days), when total transcription levels have greatly decreased, splicing snRNPs are redistributed. By six days postinduction snRNPs were concentrated in large clusters of interchromatin granules and no longer associated with coiled bodies. At the end-point of erythroid differentiation, just before enucleation, we observe a dramatic segregation of splicing snRNPs from the condensed chromatin. Analysis by EM shows that the snRNPs are packaged into a membrane-associated structure at the nuclear periphery which we term the "SCIM" domain (i.e., SnRNP Clusters Inside a Membrane).

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