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Mol Cell. 2008 Sep 26;31(6):850-61. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2008.08.007. Epub 2008 Sep 4.

Identification and characterization of a general nuclear translocation signal in signaling proteins.

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Department of Biological Regulation, The Weizmann Institute of Science, 76100 Rehovot, Israel.


Upon stimulation, many proteins translocate into the nucleus in order to regulate a variety of cellular processes. The mechanism underlying the translocation is not clear since many of these proteins lack a canonical nuclear localization signal (NLS). We searched for an alternative mechanism in extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK)-2 and identified a 3 amino acid domain (SPS) that is phosphorylated upon stimulation to induce nuclear translocation of ERK2. A 19 amino acid stretch containing this phosphorylated domain inserts nondiffusible proteins to the nucleus autonomously. The phosphorylated SPS acts by binding to importin7 and the release from nuclear pore proteins. This allows its functioning both in passive and active ERK transports. A similar domain appears in many cytonuclear shuttling proteins, and we found that phosphorylation of similar sequences in SMAD3 or MEK1 also induces their nuclear accumulation. Therefore, our findings show that this phosphorylated domain acts as a general nuclear translocation signal (NTS).

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