U2 and U1 snRNA gene loci associate with coiled bodies

J Cell Biochem. 1995 Dec;59(4):473-85. doi: 10.1002/jcb.240590408.


The coiled bodies are nuclear structures rich in a variety of nuclear and nucleolar components including snRNAs. We have investigated the possibility that coiled bodies may associate with snRNA genes and report here that there is a high degree of association between U2 and U1 genes with a subset of coiled bodies. As investigated in human HeLa cells grown in monolayer culture, about 75% of nuclei had at least one U2 gene associated with a coiled body, and 45% had at least one U1 locus associated. In another suspension-grown HeLa cell strain, 92% of cells showed associated of one or more U2 genes with coiled bodies. In contrast to the U2 and U1 gene associations, a locus closely linked to the U2 gene cluster appeared associated with a coiled body only in 10% of cells. Associated snRNA gene signals were repeatedly positioned at the edge of the coiled body. Thus, this associated was highly nonrandom and spatially precise. Our analysis revealed a much higher frequency of association for closely spaced "doublet" U2 gene signals, with over 80% of paired signals associated as opposed to 35% for single U2 signals. This finding, coupled with the fact that not all genes were associated in all cells, suggested the possibility of a cell-cycle-dependent, possibly S-phase, association. However, an analysis of S- and non-S-phase cells using BrdU incorporation or cell synchronization did not indicate an increased level of association in S-phase. These and other results suggested that a substantial fraction of paired U2 signals represented association of U2 genes on homologous chromosomes rather than only replicated DNA. Furthermore, triple label analysis showed that in a significant fraction of cells U1 and U2 genes were both associated with the same coiled body. U1 and U2 genes were closely paired in approximately 20% of cells, over 60% of which were associated with a readily identifiable coiled body. This finding raises the possibility that multiple genes of a particular class may be in association with each coiled body. Thus, the coiled body may be a dynamic structure which transiently interacts with or is formed by one or more specific genetic loci, possibly carrying out some function related to their expression.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Cell Nucleus / ultrastructure*
  • Chromosome Mapping
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • In Situ Hybridization, Fluorescence
  • RNA, Small Nuclear / genetics*
  • S Phase
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • RNA, Small Nuclear