A combination of mathematical modeling and live-cell measurements was applied to determine the dynamics of small nuclear ribonucleoprotein (snRNP) formation in Cajal bodies of living cells. Our results indicate that a substantial fraction of tri-snRNPs is formed in Cajal bodies in cells with many Cajal bodies per nucleus.
The U4/U6·U5 tri-small nuclear ribonucleoprotein particle (tri-snRNP) is an essential pre-mRNA splicing factor, which is assembled in a stepwise manner before each round of splicing. It was previously shown that the tri-snRNP is formed in Cajal bodies (CBs), but little is known about the dynamics of this process. Here we created a mathematical model of tri-snRNP assembly in CBs and used it to fit kinetics of individual snRNPs monitored by fluorescence recovery after photobleaching. A global fitting of all kinetic data determined key reaction constants of tri-snRNP assembly. Our model predicts that the rates of di-snRNP and tri-snRNP assemblies are similar and that ∼230 tri-snRNPs are assembled in one CB per minute. Our analysis further indicates that tri-snRNP assembly is approximately 10-fold faster in CBs than in the surrounding nucleoplasm, which is fully consistent with the importance of CBs for snRNP formation in rapidly developing biological systems. Finally, the model predicted binding between SART3 and a CB component. We tested this prediction by Förster resonance energy transfer and revealed an interaction between SART3 and coilin in CBs.