In Xenopus, localization of a rare class of mRNAs during oogenesis is believed to initiate pattern formation in the early embryo. We have determined the pattern of RNA localization for one of these RNAs, Xcat-2, which encodes a putative RNA-binding protein related to Drosophila nanos (Mosquera, L., Forristall, C., Zhou, Y. and King, M. L. (1993) Development 117, 377–386). Xcat-2 is exclusively localized to the mitochondrial cloud in stage I oocytes, moves with this body into the vegetal cortex during stage II and, later, partitions into islands consistent with it being a component of the germ plasm. As previously shown, Vg1 is not localized to the vegetal cortex until stage IV and distributes to all vegetal blastomeres during development. We found a direct correlation between the localized condition of these RNAs and their recovery in a detergent-insoluble fraction. We present evidence suggesting that differential RNA binding to a cytoskeletal component(s) in the vegetal cortex determines the pattern of inheritance for that RNA in the embryo.

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