Cajal bodies: where form meets function

Wiley Interdiscip Rev RNA. Jan-Feb 2013;4(1):17-34. doi: 10.1002/wrna.1139. Epub 2012 Oct 5.


The cell nucleus contains dozens of subcompartments that separate biochemical processes into confined spaces. Cajal bodies (CBs) were discovered more than 100 years ago, but only extensive research in the past decades revealed the surprising complexity of molecular and cellular functions taking place in these structures. Many protein and RNA species are modified and assembled within CBs, which have emerged as a meeting place and factory for ribonucleoprotein (RNP) particles involved in splicing, ribosome biogenesis and telomere maintenance. Recently, a distinct structure near histone gene clusters--the Histone locus body (HLB)--was discovered. Involved in histone mRNA 3'-end formation, HLBs can share several components with CBs. Whether the appearance of distinct HLBs is simply a matter of altered affinity between these structures or of an alternate mode of CB assembly is unknown. However, both structures share basic assembly properties, in which transcription plays a decisive role in initiation. After this seeding event, additional components associate in random order. This appears to be a widespread mechanism for body assembly. CB assembly encompasses an additional layer of complexity, whereby a set of pre-existing substructures can be integrated into mature CBs. We propose this as a multi-seeding model of CB assembly.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Coiled Bodies / genetics*
  • Coiled Bodies / metabolism*
  • Histones / genetics
  • Humans
  • RNA / genetics
  • RNA / metabolism
  • RNA Splicing
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nuclear / biosynthesis
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nuclear / metabolism
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nucleolar / biosynthesis
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nucleolar / metabolism


  • Histones
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nuclear
  • Ribonucleoproteins, Small Nucleolar
  • RNA