The organization, composition and matrix of hepatocyte nuclei exposed to α-amanitin
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Alterations in the structure and molecular composition of avian hepatocyte nuclei were compared following administration in vivo of lethal and sub-lethal doses of α-amanitin. This toxin interferes with extranucleolar transcription by direct inhibition of RNA polymerase II activity. The resultant effects include: extensive condensation of chromatin, displacement of nucleoplasmic contents and fragmentation of nucleoli. Changes in nuclear morphology were quantitated by stereometry and related to variations in RNA and residual, non-histone proteins (NHP). Gross alterations in nuclear structure and depletion of RNA and NHP levels were of similar magnitude with both doses of amanitin. The effects were fully reversible, however, with a minimal dose but terminal with a lethal dose. DNA and histone protein levels remained unchanged at all stages.
These results imply that the process of transcription may itself keep and/or maintain chromatin in a dispersed state, and that in the absence of transcription chromatin naturally condenses. Modification of nuclear proteins may be necessary only to maintain chromatin compacted permanently or for extended periods of time. A model of nuclear organization is proposed to incorporate these considerations and to identify the probable location of the nuclear matrix in situ.
Key wordsNucleus Structure Composition α-amanitin
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