A monospecific autoimmune serum for poly(ADP-ribosyl)transferase (pADPRT) was used to localise the enzyme in ultrastructural cellular compartments. We detected enzyme in mitochondria of HeLa and Sertoli cells. Within the nucleoplasm the enzyme concentration was positively correlated with the degree of chromatin condensation, with interchromatin spaces being virtually free of pADPRT. During spermatogenesis we observed a gradual increase of the chromatin associated pADPRT that parallelled chromatin condensation. The highest concentration was seen in the late stages of sperm differentiation, indicating the existence of a storage form in transcriptionally inactive nuclei. In nucleoli pADPRT is accumulated in foci within the dense fibrillar component. Such foci are seen in close spatial relationship to sites of nucleolar transcription as revealed by high resolution immunodetection of bromouridine uptake sites. It is suggested that nucleolar pADPRT plays a role in preribosome processing via the modification of nucleolus specific proteins that bind to nascent transcripts and hence indirectly regulates polymerase I activity. The persisting binding of pADPRT to ribonucleoproteins may explain the observed disperse enzyme distribution at lower concentrations in the granular component. The fibrillar centres seem to contain no pADPRT. We conclude that known compounds of fibrillar centres like polymerase I are unlikely candidates for modification via direct covalent ADP-ribosylation.

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