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Annu Rev Biochem. 2007;76:647-71.

Structural biology of nucleocytoplasmic transport.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany.


In eukaryotic cells, segregation of DNA replication and RNA biogenesis in the nucleus and protein synthesis in the cytoplasm poses the requirement of transporting thousands of macromolecules between the two cellular compartments. Transport between nucleus and cytoplasm is mediated by soluble receptors that recognize specific cargoes and carry them through the nuclear pore complex (NPC), the sole gateway between the two compartments at interphase. Nucleocytoplasmic transport is specific not only in terms of cargo recognition, but also in terms of directionality, with nuclear proteins imported into the nucleus and RNAs exported from it. How is directionality achieved? How can the receptors be both specific and versatile in recognizing a multitude of cargoes? And how can their interaction with NPCs allow fast translocation? We describe the molecular mechanisms underlying nucleocytoplasmic transport as they have been revealed by structural studies of the receptors and regulators in different steps of transport cycles.

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