Nucleolus: the fascinating nuclear body

Histochem Cell Biol. 2008 Jan;129(1):13-31. doi: 10.1007/s00418-007-0359-6. Epub 2007 Nov 29.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Nucleolus / genetics
  • Cell Nucleolus / metabolism*
  • DNA, Ribosomal / genetics
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA Polymerase I / metabolism
  • Viruses / metabolism


  • DNA, Ribosomal
  • RNA Polymerase I