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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 8;8(10):e75614. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075614. eCollection 2013.

Multiple protein domains contribute to nuclear import and cell toxicity of DUX4, a candidate pathogenic protein for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy.

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Laboratorio de Biología Celular y Molecular, Fundación Allende, Córdoba, Argentina.


DUX4 (Double Homeobox Protein 4) is a nuclear transcription factor encoded at each D4Z4 unit of a tandem-repeat array at human chromosome 4q35. DUX4 constitutes a major candidate pathogenic protein for facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), the third most common form of inherited myopathy. A low-level expression of DUX4 compromises cell differentiation in myoblasts and its overexpression induces apoptosis in cultured cells and living organisms. In this work we explore potential molecular determinants of DUX4 mediating nuclear import and cell toxicity. Deletion of the hypothetical monopartite nuclear localization sequences RRRR(23), RRKR(98) and RRAR(148) (i.e. NLS1, NLS2 and NLS3, respectively) only partially delocalizes DUX4 from the cell nuclei. Nuclear entrance guided by NLS1, NLS2 and NLS3 does not follow the classical nuclear import pathway mediated by α/β importins. NLS and homeodomain mutants from DUX4 are dramatically less cell-toxic than the wild type molecule, independently of their subcellular localization. A triple ΔNLS1-2-3 deletion mutant is still partially localized in the nuclei, indicating that additional sequences in DUX4 contribute to nuclear import. Deletion of ≥111 amino acids from the C-terminal of DUX4, on a ΔNLS1-2-3 background, almost completely re-localizes DUX4 to the cytoplasm, indicating that the C-ter tail contributes to subcellular trafficking of DUX4. Also, C-terminal deletion mutants of DUX4 on a NLS wild type background are less toxic than wild type DUX4. Results reported here indicate that DUX4 possesses redundant mechanisms to assure nuclear entrance and that its various transcription-factor associated domains play an essential role in cell toxicity.

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