Intracellular distribution of histone mRNAs in human fibroblasts studied by in situ hybridization

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Cell Biology

Publication Date


Document Type



Actins; Autoradiography; Cell Line; Fibroblasts; Histones; Humans; Nucleic Acid Hybridization; RNA, Messenger; Thymidine; Tritium


Cell Biology | Life Sciences | Medicine and Health Sciences


We have used in situ hybridization to study the intracellular distribution of mRNAs for cell cycle-dependent core and H1 histone proteins in human WI-38 fibroblasts. Because histones are abundant nuclear proteins and histone mRNA expression is tightly coupled to DNA synthesis, it was of interest to determine whether histone mRNAs are localized near the nucleus. Cells were hybridized with tritiated DNA probes specific for either histone H1, histone H4, actin, or poly(A)+ mRNA and were processed for autoradiography. In exponentially growing cultures, the fraction of histone mRNA-positive cells correlated well with the fraction of cells in S phase and was eliminated by hydroxyurea inhibition of DNA synthesis. Within individual cells the label for histone mRNA was widely distributed throughout the cytoplasm and did not appear to be more heavily concentrated near the nucleus. However, histone mRNA appeared to exhibit patchy, nonhomogeneous localization, and a quantitative evaluation confirmed that grain distributions were not as uniform as they were after hybridizations to poly(A)+ mRNA. Actin mRNA in WI-38 cells was also widely distributed throughout the cytoplasm but differed from histone mRNA in that label for actin mRNA was frequently most dense at the outermost region of narrow cell extensions. The localization of actin mRNA was less pronounced but qualitatively very similar to that previously described for chicken embryonic myoblasts and fibroblasts. We conclude that localization of histones in WI-38 cells is not facilitated by localization of histone protein synthesis near the nucleus and that there are subtle but discrete and potentially functional differences in the distributions of histone, actin, and poly(A)+ mRNAs.


Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1988 Jan;85(2):463-7. Link to article on publisher's website

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

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Link to Article in PubMed

PubMed ID