Nudeocytoplasmic shuttling by protein nuclear import factors
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Protein nuclear import factors are not, in general, believed to function in the nuclear export of macromolecules and their reutilization therefore requires their recycling from the nucleus to the cytoplasm. Two possible mechanisms for recycling have been proposed. On the one hand, protein import factors such as importin beta and transportin (Trn) could continuously shuttle between cytoplasm and nucleoplasm. On the other hand, these proteins could penetrate into the nucleus only as far as the inner surface of the nuclear pore complex and then directly return to the cytoplasm. In this manuscript, we have used microinjection analysis in human cells, and in vitro nuclear assays, to demonstrate that importin beta, transportin and importin alpha are all nucleocytoplasmic shuttle proteins that efficiently enter and exit the cell nucleoplasm. In the case of transportin, we have mapped sequences required for nucleocytoplasmic shuttling to the carboxy-terminal 270 amino acids of this 890 amino acid import factor, thus demonstrating that nuclear export is independent of the amino-terminal Ran-binding domain of Trn. We further show that Trn shuttling is independent of nuclear RNA transcription. Overall, these data suggest that nucleocytoplasmic shuttling is likely to be a general attribute of protein nuclear import factors.
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