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Cell Struct Funct. 1999 Dec;24(6):425-33.

Nucleocytoplasmic protein transport and recycling of Ran.

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Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience, Graduate School of Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, Japan.


The active transport of proteins into and out of the nucleus is mediated by specific signals, the nuclear localization signal (NLS) and nuclear export signal (NES), respectively. The best characterized NLS is that of the SV40 large T antigen, which contains a cluster of basic amino acids. The NESs were first identified in the protein kinase inhibitor (PKI) and HIV Rev protein, which are rich in leucine residues. The SV40 T-NLS containing transport substrates are carried into the nucleus by an importin alpha/beta heterodimer. Importin alpha recognizes the NLS and acts as an adapter between the NLS and importin beta, whereas importin beta interacts with importin alpha bound to the NLS, and acts as a carrier of the NLS/importin alpha/beta trimer. It is generally thought that importin alpha and beta are part of a large protein family. The leucine rich NES-containing proteins are exported from the nucleus by one of the importin beta family molecules, CRM1/exportin 1. A Ras-like small GTPase Ran plays a crucial role in both import/export pathways and determines the directionality of nuclear transport. It has recently been demonstrated in living cells that Ran actually shuttles between the nucleus and the cytoplasm and that the recycling of Ran is essential for the nuclear transport. Furthermore, it has been shown that nuclear transport factor 2 (NTF2) mediates the nuclear import of RanGDP. This review largely focuses on the issue concerning the functional divergence of importin alpha family molecules and the role of Ran in nucleocytoplasmic protein transport.

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