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Cell Signal. 2000 May;12(5):337-41.

Nuclear targeting of proteins: how many different signals?

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  • 1Institut de Biologie et de Médecine Moléculaires (IBMM), IRIBHN-Faculté de Médecine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, rue des Professeurs Jeener et Brachet 12, 6041, Gosselies, Belgique.


The nuclear import of proteins into the cell nucleus involves the recognition of a nuclear localization signal sequence, borne by the protein to be transported, by complex molecules called importins, that will subsequently mediate the crossing over of the nuclear envelope. The most frequently encountered signal sequence is made up of short stretches of basic amino acid residues and is recognized by importins alpha and/or beta. Other signal sequences have been described, and some have been shown to mediate the association with importins other than importin alpha or beta. Recently, approaches have been developed that allow the cloning, on a functional basis, of sequences able to specify the nuclear localization of proteins. A variety of peptidic motifs of limited size which do not contain previously described signal sequences were isolated in such assays. It reveals that the spectrum of sequences that are able to target a protein to the cell nucleus may be wider than currently expected. It will probably also lead to the identification of novel target sequences for importins and will demonstrate the implication of additional members of this family of proteins in nuclear transport.

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