The germ cells, and germ cell precursors, in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans contain distinctive granules called P granules. During early embryogenesis, P granules are segregated asymmetrically into those blastomeres that eventually produce the germ line. Because of the correlation between P granule distribution and the development of the germ line, P granules are widely thought to function in some aspect of germ line specification or differentiation. Most of the analysis of P granule structure and localization has focused on the early embryo, when P granules are located in the cytoplasm. However, during most of development P granules are associated with germ cell nuclei. We report here an ultrastructural analysis of the nuclear-associated P granules in the germ cells of the adult hermaphrodite gonad. We show that P granules are tightly associated with nuclear pores and that the positions of certain structures within the P granules correspond to the positions of pores on the nuclear envelope. We present immunocytochemical and ultrastructural data suggesting that P granules can associate, or remain associated, with pore-like structures even after they detach from the nuclear envelope during oogenesis. Finally, we show that nuclear-associated P granules in the gonad contain RNA, complementing previous studies showing that cytoplasmic P granules in embryos contain RNA.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.