Sucrose density gradient analyses of pH 5.5 and pH 7.4 extracts from rat liver nucleoli revealed the presence of two broad peaks of approximately 60S and 80S, and 60S and 80–100S, respectively. Ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles containing precursor ribosomal RNA in these peaks have been characterized by electron microscopy and RNA analyses. Spherical particles only were found in the 60S peak of the pH 5.5 extract, from which 28S RNA and smaller RNA (23S and 18S RNA) exclusively were extracted. In the broad 80S peak of the pH 5.5 extract, about 60% of the particles were spherical while 30% were rodlike. In the RNA species present there were 28S plus smaller RNA (80%) and 35S RNA (20%). The 60Speak of the pH 7.4 extract contained mainly spherical particles (84%), and the RNA species present was mostly 28S plus smaller RNA (89%). In addition to spherical particles (43%), a number of rodlike (31%) and filamentous molecules (26%) were observed in the heavier side of the 80–100S peak of the pH 7.4 extract, from which 45S (14%), 35S (26%), and 28S and smaller RNA (60%) were extracted. Thus the precursor ribosomal particles containing 45S RNA and 35S RNA appear to be filamentous and rodlike molecules, respectively. Folding of loose ribonucleoprotein filaments into compact, spherical, large subparticles may be part of the maturation process of ribosomal large subparticles, in addition to the so-called sequential cleavage of RNA.

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