The amplified, extrachromosomal nucleoli of Xenopus oocytes contain a meshwork of approximately 4-nm-thick filaments, which are densely coiled into higher-order fibrils of diameter 30-40 nm and are resistant to treatment with high- and low-salt concentrations, nucleases (DNase I, pancreatic RNase, micrococcal nuclease), sulfhydryl agents, and various nonionic detergents. This filamentous "skeleton" has been prepared from manually isolated nuclear contents and nucleoli as well as from nucleoli isolated by fluorescence-activated particle sorting. The nucleolar skeletons are observed in light and electron microscopy and are characterized by ravels of filaments that are especially densely packed in the nucleolar cortex. DNA as well as RNA are not constituents of this structure, and precursors to ribosomal RNAs are completely removed from the extraction-resistant filaments by treatment with high-salt buffer or RNase. Fractions of isolated nucleolar skeletons show specific enrichment of an acidic major protein of 145,000 mol wt and an apparent pI value of approximately 6.15, accompanied in some preparations by various amounts of minor proteins. The demonstration of this skeletal structure in "free" extrachromosomal nucleoli excludes the problem of contaminations by nonnucleolar material such as perinucleolar heterochromatin normally encountered in studies of nucleoli from somatic cells. It is suggested that this insoluble protein filament complex forms a skeleton specific to the nucleolus proper that is different from other extraction-resistant components of the nucleus such as matrix and lamina and is involved in the spatial organization of the nucleolar chromatin and its transcriptional products.

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