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Bioessays. 1998 May;20(5):400-11.

Nuclear targeting by growth factors, cytokines, and their receptors: a role in signaling?

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Division for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Canberra, Australia.


The role of membrane receptors is regarded as being to transduce the signal represented by ligand binding from the external cell surface across the membrane into the cell. Signals are subsequently conveyed from the cytoplasm to the nucleus through a combination of second-messenger molecules, kinase/phosphorylation cascades, and transcription factor (TF) translocation to effect changes in gene expression. Mounting evidence suggests that through direct targeting to the nucleus, polypeptide ligands and their receptors may have an important additional signaling role. Ligands such as those of the platelet-derived and fibroblast growth factor classes, as well as cytokines such as interferon-gamma and interleukins-1 and -5, have been found to localize in the nucleus through the action of nuclear localization sequences (NLSs). Where tested, these NLSs appear to be essential for full signaling activity and may be responsible for cotranslocating receptors to the nucleus in complexes with their ligands. The implication is that, subsequent to endocytosis at the membrane, particular polypeptide ligands or their receptors, or both, may translocate to the nucleus to participate directly in gene regulation.

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