Maternal poly(A)+RNA, histone mRNA, and actin mRNA exhibit unique spatial distributions in the different ooplasmic regions of ascidian eggs. These RNAs also appear to migrate with their respective ooplasms during the episode of extensive cytoplasmic rearrangement that occurs after fertilization, suggesting they are associated with a structural framework. The role of the cytoskeletal framework (CF) in determining the spatial distribution of maternal mRNA was tested by subjecting Triton X-100 extracted (Styela plicata) eggs and early embryos to in situ hybridization with poly(U) and cloned DNA probes. Grain counts indicated that substantial proportions of the egg poly(A)+RNA, histone mRNA, and actin mRNA were present in the CF and that there was no alteration in the extent of mRNA-CF interactions during the period between fertilization and the two-cell stage. Analysis of grain distributions indicated that poly(A)+RNA, histone mRNA, and actin mRNA were concentrated in the same regions of detergent-extracted eggs as they are in intact eggs. The proportions and spatial distribution of these RNAs in the CF were not affected when the actin cytoskeleton was destabilized by cytochalasin B or DNase I. The data suggest that maternal mRNA is associated with the CF, that this association is responsible for mRNA rearrangement during ooplasmic segregation, and that mRNA-CF interactions are not dependent on the integrity of the actin cytoskeleton.