The Nucleus pp 29-54 | Cite as

Gene Expression in Polytene Nuclei

  • Petra Björk
  • Lars Wieslander
Part of the Methods in Molecular Biology book series (MIMB, volume 464)


Gene expression in eukaryotic cells is a multi-step process. Many of the steps are both co-ordinated and quality controlled. For example, transcription is closely coupled to pre-messenger RNA (mRNA)–protein assembly, pre-mRNA processing, surveillance of the correct synthesis of messenger ribonucleoprotein (mRNP), and export. The coordination appears to be exerted through dynamic interactions between components of the transcription, processing, surveillance, and export machineries. Our knowledge is so far incomplete about these molecular interactions and where in the nucleus they take place. It is therefore essential to analyze the intranuclear steps of gene expression in vivo. Polytene nuclei are exceptionally large and contain chromosomes and individual genes that can be structurally analyzed in situ during ongoing transcription. Furthermore, they contain gene-specific pre-mRNPs/mRNPs that can be visualised and analyzed as they are synthesised on the gene and then followed on their path to the cytoplasm. We describe methods for investigating the structure and composition of active chromatin and gene-specific pre-mRNPs/mRNPs in the context of analyses of gene expression processes in the nuclei of polytene cells.


Polytene chromosomes Balbiani ring genes Chromatin Gene expression transcription mRNA processing Nucleocytoplasmic export Immunolabelling Electron microscopy 



We are grateful for helpful comments from Prof. B. Daneholt and Prof. N. Visa. We also acknowledge the assistance of K. Bernholm.


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Copyright information

© Humana Press, a part of Springer Science + Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Petra Björk
    • 1
  • Lars Wieslander
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Molecular Biology and Functional GenomicsStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

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