Oocytes of several amphibian species (Xenopus laevis, Rana temporaria, and Pleurodeles waltlii) contained a relatively large pool of nonchromatin-bound, soluble high mobility group (HMG) protein with properties similar to those of calf thymus proteins HMG-1 and HMG-2 (protein HMG-A; A, amphibian). About half of this soluble HMG-A was located in the nuclear sap, the other half was recovered in enucleated ooplasms. This protein was identified by its mobility on one- and two-dimensional gel electrophoresis, by binding of antibodies to calf thymus HMG-1 to polypeptides electrophoretically separated and blotted on nitrocellulose paper, and by tryptic peptide mapping of radioiodinated polypeptides. Most, if not all, of the HMG-A in the soluble nuclear protein fraction, preparatively defined as supernatant obtained after centrifugation at 100,000 g for 1 h, was in free monomeric form, apparently not bound to other proteins. On gel filtration it eluted with a mean peak corresponding to an apparent molecular weight of approximately 25,000; on sucrose gradient centrifugation it appeared with a very low S value (2-3 S), and on isoelectric focusing it appeared in fractions ranging from pH approximately 7 to 9. This soluble HMG-A was retained on DEAE-Sephacel but could be eluted already at moderate salt concentrations (0.2 M KCl). In oocytes of various stages of oogenesis HMG-A was accumulated in the nucleus up to concentrations of approximately 14 ng per nucleus (in Xenopus), corresponding to approximately 0.2 mg/ml, similar to those of the nucleosomal core histones. This nuclear concentration is also demonstrated using immunofluorescence microscopy. When antibodies to bovine HMG-1 were microinjected into nuclei of living oocytes of Pleurodeles the lateral loops of the lampbrush chromosomes gradually retracted and the whole chromosomes condensed. As shown using electron microscopy of spread chromatin from such injected oocyte nuclei, this process of loop retraction was accompanied by the appearance of variously-sized and irregularly-spaced gaps within transcriptional units of chromosomal loops but not of nucleoli, indicating that the transcription of non-nucleolar genes was specifically inhibited by this treatment and hence involved an HMG-1-like protein. These data show that proteins of the HMG-1 and -2 category, which are usually chromatin-bound components, can exist, at least in amphibian oocytes, in a free soluble monomeric form, apparently not bound to other molecules. The possible role of this large oocyte pool of soluble HMG-A in early embryogenesis is discussed as well as the possible existence of soluble HMG proteins in other cells.

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