Transcription and splicing of messenger RNAs are temporally and spatially coordinated through the recruitment by RNA polymerase II of processing factors. We questioned whether RNA polymerase I plays a role in the recruitment of the ribosomal RNA (rRNA) processing machinery. During Xenopus laevis embryogenesis, recruitment of the rRNA processing machinery to the nucleolar domain occurs in two steps: two types of precursor structures called prenucleolar bodies (PNBs) form independently throughout the nucleoplasm; and components of PNBs I (fibrillarin, nucleolin, and the U3 and U8 small nucleolar RNAs) fuse to the nucleolar domain before components of PNBs II (B23/NO38). This fusion process is independent of RNA polymerase I activity, as shown by actinomycin D treatment of embryos and by the lack of detectable RNA polymerase I at ribosomal gene loci during fusion. Instead, this process is concomitant with the targeting of maternally derived pre-rRNAs to the nucleolar domain. Absence of fusion was correlated with absence of these pre-rRNAs in nuclei where RNA polymerase II and III are inhibited. Therefore, during X. laevis embryogenesis, the recruitment of the rRNA processing machinery to the nucleolar domain could be dependent on the presence of pre-rRNAs, but is independent of either zygotic RNA polymerase I transcription or the presence of RNA polymerase I itself
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