Fibrillar centers (FCs) and dense fibrillar components (DFCs) are essential morphologically distinct sub-regions of mammalian cell nucleoli for rDNA transcription and pre-rRNA processing. Here, we report that a human nucleolus consists of several dozen FC/DFC units, each containing 2-3 transcriptionally active rDNAs at the FC/DFC border. Pre-rRNA processing factors, such as fibrillarin (FBL), form 18-24 clusters that further assemble into the DFC surrounding the FC. Mechanistically, the 5' end of nascent 47S pre-rRNA binds co-transcriptionally to the RNA-binding domain of FBL. FBL diffuses to the DFC, where local self-association via its glycine- and arginine-rich (GAR) domain forms phase-separated clusters to immobilize FBL-interacting pre-rRNA, thus promoting directional traffic of nascent pre-rRNA while facilitating pre-rRNA processing and DFC formation. These results unveil FC/DFC ultrastructures in nucleoli and suggest a conceptual framework for considering nascent RNA sorting using multivalent interactions of their binding proteins.
Keywords: Fibrillarin; RNA binding domain; RNA sorting; condensates; glycine- and arginine-rich; intrinsically disordered region; nucleolus; phase separation; ribosomal RNA; super-resolution microscopy.
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.