The oocyte chromosomes of the red flour beetle, Tribolium castaneum, are gathered into a knot, forming a karyosphere at the diplotene stage of meiotic prophase. Chromatin rearrangement, which is a characteristic feature of oocyte maturation, is well documented. The T. castaneum karyosphere is surrounded by a complex extrachromosomal structure termed the karyosphere capsule. The capsule contains the vast majority of oocyte RNA. We have previously shown using a BrUTP assay that oocyte chromosomes in T. castaneum maintain residual transcription up to the very end of oocyte maturation. Karyosphere transcription requires evidently not only transcription factors but also mRNA processing factors, including the components of the exon junction complex with its core component, the splicing factor Y14. We employed a gene engineering approach with injection of mRNA derived from the Myc-tagged Y14 plasmid-based construct in order to monitor the newly synthesized fusion protein in the oocyte nuclei.
Our preliminary data have been presented as a brief correspondence elsewhere. Here, we provide a full-length article including immunoelectron-microscopy localization data on Y14–Myc distribution in the nucleus of previtellogenic and vitellogenic oocytes. The injections of the fusion protein Y14–Myc mRNA into the oocytes showed a dynamic pattern of the protein distribution. At the previtellogenic stage, there are two main locations for the protein: SC35 domains (the analogues of interchromatin granule clusters or nuclear speckles) and the karyosphere capsule. At the vitellogenic stage, SC35 domains were devoid of labels, and Y14–Myc was found in the perichromatin region of the karyosphere, presumably at the places of residual transcription. We show that karyosphere formation is accompanied by the movement of a nuclear protein while the residual transcription occurs during genome inactivation.
Our data indicate that the karyosphere capsule, being a destination site for a protein involved in mRNA splicing and export, is not only a specializes part of nuclear matrix separating the karyosphere from the products of chromosome activity, as believed previously, but represents a special nuclear compartment involved in the processes of gene expression in the case the karyosphere retains residual transcription activity.