Björk, P. Wieslander, L.

The Balbiani Ring Story: Synthesis, Assembly, Processing, and Transport of Specific Messenger RNA–Protein Complexes

Eukaryotic gene expression is the result of the integrated action of multimolecular machineries. These machineries associate with gene transcripts, often already nascent precursor messenger RNAs (pre-mRNAs). They rebuild the transcript and convey properties allowing the processed transcript, the mRNA, to be exported to the cytoplasm, quality controlled, stored, translated, and degraded. To understand these integrated processes, one must understand the temporal and spatial aspects of the fate of the gene transcripts in relation to interacting molecular machineries. Improved methodology is necessary to study gene expression in vivo for endogenous genes. A complementary approach is to study biological systems that provide exceptional experimental possibilities. We describe such a system, the Balbiani ring (BR) genes in polytene cells in the dipteran Chironomus tentans. The BR genes, along with their pre-mRNA-protein complexes (pre-mRNPs) and mRNA-protein complexes (mRNPs), allow the visualization of intact cell nuclei and enable analyses of where and when different molecular machineries associate with and act on the BR pre-mRNAs and mRNAs.


gene expression; mRNA export; pre-mRNA processing; structure of mRNPs