To understand the mechanisms of mRNA transport in eukaryotes, we have isolated Saccharomyces cerevisiae temperature-sensitive (ts) mutants which accumulate poly(A)+ RNA in the nucleus at the restrictive temperature. A total of 21 recessive mutants were isolated and classified into 16 complementation groups. Backcrossed mRNA transport- defective strains from each complementation group have been analyzed. A strain which is ts for heat shock transcription factor was also analyzed since it also shows nuclear accumulation of poly(A)+ RNA at 37 degrees C. At 37 degrees C the mRNA of each mutant is characterized by atypically long polyA tails. Unlike ts pre-mRNA splicing mutants, these strains do not interrupt splicing of pre-mRNA at 37 degrees C; however four strains accumulate oversized RNA polymerase II transcripts. Some show inhibition of rRNA processing and a further subset of these strains is also characterized by inhibition of tRNA maturation. Several strains accumulate nuclear proteins in the cytoplasm when incubated at semipermissive temperature. Remarkably, many strains exhibit nucleolar fragmentation or enlargement at the restrictive temperature. Most strains show dramatic ultrastructural alterations of the nucleoplasm or nuclear membrane. Distinct mutants accumulate poly(A)+ RNA in characteristic patterns in the nucleus.