The heterogeneous nuclear RNA-protein (hnRNP) fibers in HeLa cell nuclei are visualized by a nuclear subfractionation technique which removes 96% of the chromatin in a single step and 99% in a two-step elution but leaves the bulk of the hnRNA complexed with the remnant nuclear structure or lamina. Both steady-state and newly synthesized (approximately 15-s label) hnRNA are associated with the remnant nuclei to about the same extent. This association does not appear to depend on the presence of chromatin and exists in addition to any possible association of hnRNP with chromatin itself. Electron microscopy of partially purified nuclear hnRNA complexes shows that the hnRNP fibers form a ribonucleoprotein network throughout the nucleus, whose integrity is dependent on the RNA. Autoradiography confirms that hnRNA is a constituent of the fibers. The RNA network visualized in these remnant nuclei may be similar to RNA networks seen in intact cells. The hnRNA molecules appear to be associated with the nuclear lamina, at least in part, by unusual hnRNA sequences. More than half of the recovered poly(A) and double-stranded hnRNA regions remains associated with the nuclear structures or the laminae after digestion with RNase and elution with 0.4 M ammonium sulfate. In contrast, the majority of oligo(A), another ribonuclease resistant segment, is released together with most of the partially digested but still acid-precipitable single-stranded hnRNA and the hnRNP proteins not eluted by the ammonium sulfate alone. These special RNA regions appear to be tightly bound and may serve as points of attachment of the hnRNA to nuclear substructures. It is suggested that hnRNA metabolism does not take place in a soluble nucleoplasmic compartment but on organized structures firmly bound to the nuclear structure.

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