BACKGROUND: Many rapidly developing systems rely on the regulated translation of stored transcripts for the formation of new proteins essential for morphogenesis. The microspores of the water fern Marsilea vestita dehydrate as they mature. During this process both mRNA and proteins required for subsequent development are stored within the microspores as they become fully desiccated and enter into senescence. At this point microspores become transcriptionally silent and remain so upon rehydration and for the remainder of spermatogenesis. Transcriptional silencing coupled with the translation of preformed RNA makes the microspore of M. vestita a useful system in which to study post-transcriptional regulation of RNA. RESULTS: We have characterized the distribution of mRNA as well as several conserved markers of subnuclear bodies within the nuclei of desiccating spores. During this period, nuclear speckles containing RNA were seen to aggregate forming a single large coalescence. We found that aggregated speckles contain several masked mRNA species known to be essential for spermatogenesis. During spermatogenesis masked mRNA and associated speckle proteins were shown to fragment and asymmetrically localize to spermatogenous but not sterile cells. This asymmetric localization was disrupted by RNAi knockdown of the Marsilea homolog of the Exon Junction Complex core component Mago nashi. CONCLUSIONS: A subset of masked mRNA is stored in association with nuclear speckles during the dormant phase of microspore development in M. vestita. The asymmetric distribution of specific mRNAs to spermatogenous but not sterile cells mirrors their translational activities and appears to require the EJC or EJC components. This suggests a novel role for nuclear speckles in the post-transcriptional regulation of transcripts.