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J Mol Biol. 2008 Jun 13;379(4):678-94. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2008.04.038. Epub 2008 Apr 22.

Classical NLS proteins from Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Medizinische Biochemie und Molekularbiologie, Universit├Ąt des Saarlandes, Geb. 61.4, 66421 Homburg, Germany.


Proteins can enter the nucleus through various receptor-mediated import pathways. One class of import cargos carries a classical nuclear localization signal (cNLS) containing a short cluster of basic residues. This pathway involves importin alpha (Impalpha), which possesses the cNLS binding site, and importin beta (Impbeta), which translocates the import complex through the nuclear pore complex. The defining criteria for a cNLS protein from Saccharomyces cerevisiae are an in vivo import defect in Impalpha and Impbeta mutants, direct binding to purified Impalpha, and stimulation of this binding by Impbeta. We show for the first time that endogenous S. cerevisiae proteins Prp20, Cdc6, Swi5, Cdc45, and Clb2 fulfill all of these criteria identifying them as authentic yeast cNLS cargos. Furthermore, we found that the targeting signal of Prp20 is a bipartite cNLS and that of Cdc6 is a monopartite cNLS. Basic residues present within these motifs are of different significance for the interaction with Impalpha. We determined the binding constants for import complexes containing the five cNLS proteins by surface plasmon resonance spectrometry. The dissociation constants for cNLS/alpha/beta complexes differ considerably, ranging from 1 nM for Cdc6 to 112 nM for Swi5, suggesting that the nuclear import kinetics is determined by the strength of cNLS/Impalpha binding. Impbeta enhances the affinity of Impalpha for cNLSs approximately 100-fold. This stimulation of cNLS binding to Impalpha results from a faster association in the presence of Impbeta, whereas the dissociation rate is unaffected by Impbeta. This implies that, after entry into the nucleus, the release of Impbeta by the Ran guanosine triphosphatase (Ran GTPase) from the import complex is not sufficient to dissociate the cNLS/Impalpha subcomplex. Our observation that the nucleoporin Nup2, which had been previously shown to release the cNLS from Impalpha in vitro, is required for efficient import of all the genuine cNLS cargos supports a general role of Nup2 in import termination.

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