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EMBO J. 1997 Nov 17;16(22):6783-92.

Nuclear import of U snRNPs requires importin beta.

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European Molecular Biology Laboratory, Meyerhofstrasse 1, D-69117 Heidelberg, Germany.


Macromolecules that are imported into the nucleus can be divided into classes according to their nuclear import signals. The best characterized class consists of proteins which carry a basic nuclear localization signal (NLS), whose transport requires the importin alpha/beta heterodimer. U snRNP import depends on both the trimethylguanosine cap of the snRNA and a signal formed when the Sm core proteins bind the RNA. Here, factor requirements for U snRNP nuclear import are studied using an in vitro system. Depletion of importin alpha, the importin subunit that binds the NLS, is found to stimulate rather than inhibit U snRNP import. This stimulation is shown to be due to a common requirement for importin beta in both U snRNP and NLS protein import. Saturation of importin beta-mediated transport with the importin beta-binding domain of importin alpha blocks U snRNP import both in vitro and in vivo. Immunodepletion of importin beta inhibits both NLS-mediated and U snRNP import. While the former requires re-addition of both importin alpha and importin beta, re-addition of importin beta alone to immunodepleted extracts was sufficient to restore efficient U snRNP import. Thus importin beta is required for U snRNP import, and it functions in this process without the NLS-specific importin alpha.

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