α-Amanitin acts in vitro as a selective inhibitor of the nucleoplasmic form B RNA polymerases. Treatment of Chinese hamster ovary (CHO) cells with this drug leads principally to a severe fragmentation of the nucleoli. While the ultrastructural lesions induced by α-amanitin in CHO cells and in rat or mouse liver are quite similar, the results diverge concerning the effect on RNA synthesis. It has been shown that in rat or mouse liver α-amanitin blocks both extranucleolar and nucleolar RNA synthesis. Our autoradiographic and biochemical evidence indicates that in CHO cells high molecular weight extranucleolar RNA synthesis (HnRNA) is blocked by the α-amanitin treatment, whereas nucleolar RNA (preribosomal RNA) synthesis remains unaffected even several hours after the inhibition of extranucleolar RNA synthesis. Furthermore, the processing of this RNA as well as its transport to the cytoplasm seem only slightly affected by the treatment. Finally, under these conditions, the synthesis of the low molecular RNA species (4–5S) still occurs, though less actively. The results are interpreted as evidence for a selective impairment of HnRNA synthesis by α-amanitin in CHO cells.

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