Analysis of stable cell lines expressing fluorescently tagged survival of motor neurons protein (SMN) and coilin shows striking differences in their dynamic behaviour, both in the nucleus and during mitosis. Cajal bodies labelled with either FP-SMN or FP-coilin show similar behaviour and frequency of movements. However, fluorescence recovery after photobleaching (FRAP) studies show that SMN returns approximately 50-fold more slowly to Cajal bodies than does coilin. Time-lapse studies on cells progressing from prophase through to G1 show further differences between SMN and coilin, both in their localisation in telophase and in the timing of their re-entry into daughter nuclei. The data reveal similarities between Cajal bodies and nucleoli in their behaviour during mitosis. This in vivo study indicates that SMN and coilin interact differentially with Cajal bodies and reveals parallels in the pathway for reassembly of nucleoli and Cajal bodies following mitosis.