The fine structure and cytochemistry of the extremely large RNA puffs, or Balbiani rings, in salivary gland nuclei of midge, Chironomus thummi, larvae have been investigated. The Balbiani rings are composed of a diffuse mass of electron-opaque 400 to 500 A granules, short threads about 180 to 220 A in diameter and associated fine chromatin fibrils. These components appear to be organized into brushlike elements which form the ring. Electron microscope cytochemistry has shown that the granules and short threads contain RNA. After ribonuclease digestion, only 50 to 100 A chromatin fibrils were apparent in the Balbiani ring, and the granules were no longer demonstrable. Deoxyribonuclease digestion had no apparent effect on these structures. Observations indicate that the granules are formed from the short threads and released into the nucleoplasm in which they are evenly distributed. At the nuclear envelope, many granules have been observed partially or completely within the nuclear pores. These granules become elongated and are shown to penetrate the center of the pore in a rodlike form, about 200 A in diameter. The Balbiani ring granules are not normally visible within the cytoplasm adjacent to the nuclear envelope, but have been rarely found in this region. It is suggested that the granules represent the product of the Balbiani ring, possibly a messenger RNA bound to protein, and that they regularly pass into the cytoplasm through a narrow central channel in the pores of the nuclear envelope.

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