Newly transcribed heterogeneous nuclear RNA (hnRNA) in the eucaryote cell nucleus is bound by proteins, giving rise to large ribonucleoprotein (RNP) fibrils with an inherent substructure consisting largely of relatively homogeneous approximately 20-nm 30S particles, which contain core polypeptides of 34,000-38,000 mol wt. To determine whether this group of proteins was sufficient for the assembly of the native beaded nucleoprotein structure, we dissociated 30S hnRNP purified from mouse ascites cells into their component proteins and RNA by treatment with the ionic detergent sodium deoxycholate and then reconstituted this complex by addition of Triton X-100 to sequester the deoxycholate. Dissociation and reassembly were assayed by sucrose gradient centrifugation, monitoring UV absorbance, protein composition, and radiolabeled nucleic acid, and by electron microscopy. Endogenous RNA was digested and reassembly of RNP complexes carried out with equivalent amounts of exogenous RNA or single-stranded DNA. These complexes are composed exclusively of groups of n 30S subunits, as determined by sucrose gradient and electron microscope analysis, where n is the length of the added nucleic acid divided by the length of nucleic acid bound by one native 30S complex (about 1,000 nucleotides). When the nucleic acid: protein stoichiometry in the reconstitution mixture was varied, only complexes composed of 30S subunits were formed; excess protein or nucleic acid remained unbound. These results strongly suggest that core proteins determine the basic structural properties of 30S subunits and hence of hnRNP. In vitro construction of RNP complexes using model nucleic acid molecules should prove useful to the further study of the processing of mRNA.

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