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J Biol Chem. 2006 Aug 18;281(33):23870-9. Epub 2006 Jun 16.

Regulation of nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of transcription factor OREBP/TonEBP/NFAT5.

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Department of Chemistry, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.


The osmotic response element-binding protein (OREBP), also known as tonicity enhancer-binding protein (TonEBP) or NFAT5, regulates the hypertonicity-induced expression of a battery of genes crucial for the adaptation of mammalian cells to extracellular hypertonic stress. The activity of OREBP/TonEBP is regulated at multiple levels, including nucleocytoplasmic trafficking. OREBP/TonEBP protein can be detected in both the cytoplasm and nucleus under isotonic conditions, although it accumulates exclusively in the nucleus or cytoplasm when subjected to hypertonic or hypotonic challenges, respectively. Using immunocytochemistry and green fluorescent protein fusions, the protein domains that determine its subcellular localization were identified and characterized. We found that OREBP/TonEBP nuclear import is regulated by a nuclear localization signal. However, under isotonic conditions, nuclear export of OREBP/TonEBP is mediated by a CRM1-dependent, leucine-rich canonical nuclear export sequence (NES) located in the N terminus. Disruption of NES by site-directed mutagenesis yielded a mutant OREBP/TonEBP protein that accumulated in the nucleus under isotonic conditions but remained a target for hypotonicity-induced nuclear export. More importantly, a putative auxiliary export domain distal to the NES was identified. Disruption of the auxiliary export domain alone is sufficient to abolish the nuclear export of OREBP/TonEBP induced by hypotonicity. By using bimolecular fluorescence complementation assay, we showed that CRM1 interacts with OREBP/TonEBP, but not with a mutant protein deficient in NES. Our findings provide insight into how nucleocytoplasmic trafficking of OREBP/TonEBP is regulated by changes in extracellular tonicity.

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