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Dev Biol. 1997 Oct 1;190(1):117-28.

Characterization of the sea urchin major vault protein: a possible role for vault ribonucleoprotein particles in nucleocytoplasmic transport.

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Department of Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology, University of Kansas, Lawrence 66045, USA.


Vaults are large ribonucleoprotein particles that have been identified in a wide range of eukaryotic organisms. Although present in thousands of copies per cell, their function remains unknown. In this report, we identify the major vault protein in sea urchins as a 107-kDa polypeptide that copurifies with microtubules and ribosomes. Although initially identified in microtubule preparations, the sea urchin major vault protein is not predominantly microtubule-associated in vivo. Rather, the sea urchin major vault protein is present throughout the cytoplasm in eggs and embryos and in the nucleus in adult somatic cells. Within the nucleus, the sea urchin major vault protein is concentrated in the region of the nucleolus and to punctate regions of the nuclear envelope. In addition, the vault protein localizes to short linear strings juxtaposed to the exterior of the nucleus and extending outward into the cytoplasm. Based on their copurification and intracellular distribution, vaults may be involved in the nucleocytoplasmic transport of ribosomes and/or mRNA.

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