A number of chemicals, mostly adenosine analogues, cause the nucleolus of the chick embryo fibroblast to lose material and unravel over a period of several hours into beaded strands termed nucleolar necklaces (NN). The results of analyses of the fibroblasts, treated with the NN-forming chemical dichlororibobenzimidazole (DRB), suggests that the following biochemical alterations occur: DRB almost completely prevents the increase in both messenger RNA (mRNA) and heterogeneous nuclear RNA. It interferes with ribosome synthesis by decreasing the rate of 45S ribosomal RNA (rRNA) accumulation by 50%, slowing the rate of 18S rRNA appearance by 50%, and causing an extensive degradation (80%) of the 32S and 28S rRNA-containing preribisomes. Most of this preribosome degration probably occurs at or before the 32S rRNA preribosome stage. The degradation of these preribosomes appears to be due to the formation of defective 45S rRNA preribosomes rather than to a direct DRB interference with preribosome processing enzyme action. DRB inhibits total cellular RNA synthesis in less than 15 min, suggesting a direct interference with RNA synthesis. DRB also inhibits the uptake of nucleosides into the cell. DRB in the concentrations used does not appear to directly interfere with the translation of mRNA (i.e., protein synthesis). Other NN-forming adenoside analogues and high concentrations of adenosine (2 mM) cause biochemical alterations similar to those produced by DRB. To explain the preribosome degradation, we propose the hypothesis that DRB inhibits the synthesis of mRNA; as a consequence, some of the preribosomal proteins that normally coat the 32S rRNA portion of the 45S precursor RNA become limiting, and this defective portion is then subject to degradation by nucleases.

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