This work demonstrates a highly nonrandom distribution of specific genes relative to nuclear domains enriched in splicing factors and poly(A)+ RNA, and provides evidence for the direct involvement of these in pre-mRNA metabolism. As investigated in hundreds of diploid fibroblasts, human collagen I alpha 1 and beta-actin DNA/RNA showed a very high degree of spatial association with SC-35 domains, whereas three nontranscribed genes, myosin heavy chain, neurotensin, and albumin, showed no such preferential association. Collagen I alpha 1 RNA accumulates within the more central region of the domain, whereas beta-actin RNA localizes at the periphery. A novel approach revealed that collagen RNA tracks are polarized, with the entire gene at one end, on the edge of the domain, and the RNA extending into the domain. Intron 26 is spliced within the RNA track at the domain periphery. Transcriptional inhibition studies show both the structure of the domain and the gene's relationship to it are not dependent upon the continued presence of accumulated collagen RNA, and that domains remaining after inhibition are not just storage sites. Results support a model reconciling light and electron microscopic observations which proposes that transcription of some specific genes occurs at the border of domains, which may also function in the assembly or distribution of RNA metabolic components. In contrast to the apparently random dispersal of total undefined hnRNA synthesis through interdomain space, transcription and splicing for some genes occurs preferentially at specific sites, and a high degree of individual pre-mRNA metabolism is compartmentalized with discrete SC-35 domains.

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