Using probes to Xenopus laevis ribosomal-protein (r-protein) mRNAs, we have found that in the oocyte the accumulation of r-protein mRNAs proceeds to a maximum level, which is attained at the onset of vitellogenesis and remains stable thereafter. In the embryo, r-protein mRNA sequences are present at low levels in the cytoplasm during early cleavage (stages 2-5), become undetectable until gastrulation (stage 10) and accumulate progressively afterwards. Normalization of the amount of mRNA to cell number suggests an activation of r-protein genes around stage 10; however, a variation in mRNA turnover cannot be excluded. Newly synthesized ribosomal proteins cannot be found from early cleavage up to stage 26, with the exception of S3, L17 and L31, which are constantly made, and protein L5, which starts to be synthesized around stage 7. A complete set of ribosomal proteins is actively produced only in tailbud embryos (stages 28-32), several hours after the appearance of their mRNAs. Before stage 26 these mRNA sequences are found on subpolysomal fractions, whereas more than 50% of them are associated with polysomes at stage 31. Anucleolate mutants do not synthesize ribosomal proteins at the time when normal embryos do it very actively; nevertheless, they accumulate r-protein mRNAs.
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