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Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Mar;28(5):1553-64. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

An evolutionarily conserved nuclear export signal facilitates cytoplasmic localization of the Tbx5 transcription factor.

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Department of Pediatrics, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, CMRC, 2300 Children's Plaza, Box #204, Chicago, IL 60614, USA.


During cardiac development, the T-box transcription factor Tbx5 displays dynamic changes in localization from strictly nuclear to both nuclear and cytoplasmic to exclusively cytoplasmic along the actin cytoskeleton in cells coexpressing its binding protein LMP4. Although nuclear localization signals (NLSs) have been described, the mechanism by which Tbx5 exits the nucleus remained elusive. Here, we describe for Tbx5 a nuclear export signal (NES) that is recognized by the CRM1 export protein. Site-directed mutagenesis of a critical amino acid(s) within this sequence determined the functionality of this NES. Confocal localization studies and luciferase transcriptional reporter assays with NES mutant Tbx5 forms demonstrated retention in the nucleus, regardless of the presence of LMP4. Coimmunoprecipitation and pharmacological interference studies demonstrated a direct interaction between Tbx5 and CRM1, revealing that Tbx5 is using the CRM1 pathway for nuclear export. In addition to Tbx5, we identified NESs in all T-box proteins and demonstrated interaction of the family members Tbx3 and Brachyury with the CRM1 exporter, suggesting general significance. This first demonstration of evolutionarily conserved NESs in all T-box proteins in conjunction with NLSs indicates a primordial function of T-box proteins to dynamically shuttle between nuclear and cytoplasmic compartments of the cell.

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