Embryos of Chironomus samoensis are programmed, by anterior u.v. irradiation, to form the abnormal body pattern ‘double abdomen’. Most double abdomen embryos show a mirror-image duplication of abdominal segments in the absence of cephalic or thoracic segments. Such embryos can be ‘rescued’, i.e. restored to normal development, by microinjection of cytoplasm or RNA from unirradiated donor embryos. Most of the rescued embryos look completely normal and many of them hatch spontaneously. The rescuing activity decreases from the anterior to the posterior pole in the donor cytoplasm and must be delivered near the anterior pole of the recipient for maximum efficiency. Rescuing activity is present in total RNA extracted from whole, unirradiated embryos. Upon fractionation, the activity is associated with poly(A)+ RNA, with LiCl precipitate depleted of RNA smaller than 250 nucleotides (nt) and with a sucrose gradient fraction depleted of RNA larger than 500 nt. Corresponding fractions of RNA from Xenopus oocytes have no rescuing activity. The activity of Chironomus RNA is sensitive to u.v. irradiation with low fluence affecting less than 2% of the pyrimidine bases. Rescuing activity is present in cytoplasm until the blastoderm stage but disappears earlier from poly(A)+ RNA. Rescuing activity is also present, and localized, in cytoplasm of embryos from two related dipterans, Smittia sp. and Drosophila melanogaster, although the extent of rescue observed in Chironomus decreases with the phylogenetic distance between donor and recipient. The results of these and previous experiments indicate that dipteran embryos contain localized RNP particles acting as anterior determinants. In Chironomus, the activity of these particles seems to depend on the integrity of polyadenylated RNA of about 250 to 500 nt length.

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