Xenopus oocytes provide an excellent model system for understanding the cis-elements and protein factors that carry out mRNA localization in vertebrate cells. More than 20 mRNAs have been identified that localize to the vegetal cortex during stages II–IV of oogenesis. The earliest localizing RNAs are presorted to a subcellular structure, the Balbiani body (also called the mitochondrial cloud in Xenopus), of stage I oocytes prior to entering the vegetal cortex. While some evidence has suggested that diffusion drives RNA localization to the Balbiani body, a role for temperature and metabolic energy in this process has not been explored. To address this issue, we developed a quantitative assay to monitor RNA localization in stage I oocytes. Here we show that the rate of RNA accumulation to the Balbiani body is highly dependent on temperature and the intracellular concentration of ATP. In fact, while ATP depletion severely impairs RNA localization, increasing the intracellular concentration of ATP by a factor of two doubles the localization rate, indicating that ATP is limiting under normal conditions. We also show that RNA localization in stage I oocytes is reduced by inhibition of kinesin II, and that the Xcat-2 RNA localization element recruits kinesin II to the Balbiani body. We conclude from these studies that the energy state of the cell regulates the rate of RNA localization to the Balbiani body and that this process, at least to some extent, involves kinesin II
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