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J Biol Chem. 1998 Jan 30;273(5):2895-904.

Nuclear localization and export signals of the human aryl hydrocarbon receptor.

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Department of Biochemistry, Saitama Cancer Center Research Institute, 818 Komuro, Ina-machi, Kitaadachi-gun, Saitama 362, Japan.


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (Ahr) is a ligand-activated transcription factor that binds DNA in the form of a heterodimer with the Ahr nuclear translocator (hypoxia-inducible factor 1beta). We found in this study that Ahr contains both nuclear localization and export signals in the NH2-terminal region. A fusion protein composed of beta-galactosidase and full-length Ahr translocates from the cytoplasm to the nucleus in a ligand-dependent manner. However, a fusion protein lacking the PAS (Per-Ahr nuclear translocator-Sim homology) domain of the Ahr showed strong nuclear localization activity irrespective of the presence or absence of ligand. A minimum bipartite Ahr nuclear localization signal (NLS) consisting of amino acid residues 13-39 was identified by microinjection of fused proteins with glutathione S-transferase-green fluorescent protein. A NLS having mutations in bipartite basic amino acids lost nuclear translocation activity completely, which may explain the reduced binding activity to the NLS receptor, PTAC58. A 21-amino acid peptide (residues 55-75) containing the Ahr nuclear export signal is sufficient to direct nuclear export of a microinjected complex of glutathione S-transferase-Ahr-green fluorescent protein. These findings strongly suggest that Ahr act as a ligand- and signal-dependent nucleocytoplasmic shuttling protein.

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