The moving parts of the nucleolus

Histochem Cell Biol. 2005 Mar;123(3):203-16. doi: 10.1007/s00418-005-0754-9. Epub 2005 Mar 2.


The cell nucleolus is the subnuclear body in which ribosomal subunits are assembled, and it is also the location of several processes not related to ribosome biogenesis. Recent studies have revealed that nucleolar components move about in a variety of ways. One class of movement is associated with ribosome assembly, which is a vectorial process originating at the sites of transcription in the border region between the fibrillar center and the dense fibrillar component. The nascent preribosomal particles move outwardly to become the granular components where further maturation takes place. These particles continue their travel through the nucleoplasm for eventual export to the cytoplasm to become functional ribosomes. In a second kind of motion, many nucleolar components rapidly exchange with the nucleoplasm. Thirdly, nucleolar components engage in very complex movements when the nucleolus disassembles at the beginning of mitosis and then reassembles at the end of mitosis. Finally, many other cellular and viral macromolecules, which are not related to ribosome assembly, also pass through or are retained by the nucleolus. These are involved in nontraditional roles of the nucleolus, including regulation of tumor suppressor and oncogene activities, signal recognition particle assembly, modification of small RNAs, control of aging, and modulating telomerase function.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleolus / metabolism
  • Cell Nucleolus / physiology*
  • Cell Nucleolus / ultrastructure
  • HIV-1 / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Macromolecular Substances / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Mitosis / physiology
  • Ribosomes / metabolism*
  • Viral Proteins / metabolism


  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Viral Proteins