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, 129 (1), 13-31

Nucleolus: The Fascinating Nuclear Body


Nucleolus: The Fascinating Nuclear Body

Valentina Sirri et al. Histochem Cell Biol.


Nucleoli are the prominent contrasted structures of the cell nucleus. In the nucleolus, ribosomal RNAs are synthesized, processed and assembled with ribosomal proteins. RNA polymerase I synthesizes the ribosomal RNAs and this activity is cell cycle regulated. The nucleolus reveals the functional organization of the nucleus in which the compartmentation of the different steps of ribosome biogenesis is observed whereas the nucleolar machineries are in permanent exchange with the nucleoplasm and other nuclear bodies. After mitosis, nucleolar assembly is a time and space regulated process controlled by the cell cycle. In addition, by generating a large volume in the nucleus with apparently no RNA polymerase II activity, the nucleolus creates a domain of retention/sequestration of molecules normally active outside the nucleolus. Viruses interact with the nucleolus and recruit nucleolar proteins to facilitate virus replication. The nucleolus is also a sensor of stress due to the redistribution of the ribosomal proteins in the nucleoplasm by nucleolus disruption. The nucleolus plays several crucial functions in the nucleus: in addition to its function as ribosome factory of the cells it is a multifunctional nuclear domain, and nucleolar activity is linked with several pathologies. Perspectives on the evolution of this research area are proposed.


Fig. 1
Fig. 1
The nucleolus of mammalian cells as seen by electron microscopy. a In the human HeLa cell, the three main nucleolar components are visible in a section of material fixed in glutaraldehyde and osmium tetroxyde, embedded in Epon and the section contrasted with uranyl acetate and lead citrate. FCs of different sizes are visible and the largest is indicated by an asterisk. The FCs are surrounded by the DFC and are embedded in the GC. b Preferential contrast of DNA using NAMA-Ur staining in a PtK1 cell (courtesy J. Gébrane-Younès). The nucleolus is the gray structure surrounded by highly contrasted chromatin (arrow). Some chromatin filaments are also visible inside of the nucleolus (Nu). c, d Nucleolus of rat neurones (courtesy M. J. Pébusque) in the day (c), and during the night (d) which is the active period for the nucleolus of the rat. In the nonactive period (c), the nucleolus is reticulated with small FCs (asterisk). In the active period, one giant FC is visible (d, asterisk). Bar in a: 0.5 μm and bars in b, c and d: 1 μm
Fig. 2
Fig. 2
The subnucleolar constituents revealed by fluorescence microscopy. (A) The rDNA transcription machinery, illustrated by UBF labeling, is localized in several foci corresponding to FCs in HeLa cells (a). rDNA transcription sites detected by in situ BrUTP incorporation (b), mainly colocalize with UBF as seen by the merge (c). The nucleus is visualized by Dapi staining (d). (B) HeLa cells expressing either fibrillarin-GFP fusion or DsRed-B23 fusion. Fibrillarin decorates the DFC (a, b) whereas B23 decorates the GC (c, d). In ActD-treated cells nucleoli are segregated, fibrillarin localizes in caps (e, f) contrary to B23 that localizes in the central body and outside the caps (g, h). Arrowheads point the caps. Bars: 10 μm
Fig. 3
Fig. 3
At the exit from mitosis, the dynamics of DsRed-B23 is followed in living cell. In telophase (0 min), the B23 signal is visible in small foci. These foci corresponding to PNBs are clearly visible 20 min later. The B23-containing PNBs are distributed in the nucleoplasm and B23 is progressively recruited in the incipient nucleolus (40 min). Nu nucleolus
Fig. 4
Fig. 4
HIV Rev-GFP and NF90-RFP fusions were expressed in HeLa cells. Both proteins colocalize in nucleoli as seen by the merge. The nucleus is visualized by Dapi staining. Bars: 10 μm

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