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Concept: Ran


Active nuclear import of Ran exchange factor RCC1 is mediated by importin α3. This pathway is essential to generate a gradient of RanGTP on chromatin that directs nucleocytoplasmic transport, mitotic spindle assembly and nuclear envelope formation. Here we identify the mechanisms of importin α3 selectivity for RCC1. We find this isoform binds RCC1 with one order of magnitude higher affinity than the generic importin α1, although the two isoforms share an identical NLS-binding groove. Importin α3 uses its greater conformational flexibility to wedge the RCC1 β-propeller flanking the NLS against its lateral surface, preventing steric clashes with its Armadillo-core. Removing the β-propeller, or inserting a linker between NLS and β-propeller, disrupts specificity for importin α3, demonstrating the structural context rather than NLS sequence determines selectivity for isoform 3. We propose importin α3 evolved to recognize topologically complex NLSs that lie next to bulky domains or are masked by quaternary structures.Importin α3 facilitates the nuclear transport of the Ran guanine nucleotide exchange factor RCC1. Here the authors reveal the molecular basis for the selectivity of RCC1 for importin α3 vs the generic importin α1 and discuss the evolution of importin α isoforms.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Molecular biology, Mitosis, Spindle apparatus, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Importin


Nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) control the traffic between cell nucleus and cytoplasm. While facilitating translocation of nuclear transport receptors (NTRs) and NTR·cargo complexes, they suppress passive passage of macromolecules 30 kDa. Previously, we reconstituted the NPC barrier as hydrogels comprising S. cerevisiae FG domains. We now studied FG domains from 10 Xenopus nucleoporins and found that all of them form hydrogels. Related domains with low FG motif density also substantially contribute to the NPC’s hydrogel mass. We characterized all these hydrogels and observed the strictest sieving effect for the Nup98-derived hydrogel. It fully blocks entry of GFP-sized inert objects, permits facilitated entry of the small NTR NTF2, but arrests importin β-type NTRs at its surface. O-GlcNAc modification of the Nup98 FG domain prevented this arrest and allowed also large NTR·cargo complexes to enter. Solid-state NMR spectroscopy revealed that the O-GlcNAc-modified Nup98 gel lacks amyloid-like β-structures that dominate the rigid regions in the S. cerevisiae Nsp1 FG hydrogel. This suggests that FG hydrogels can assemble through different structural principles and yet acquire the same NPC-like permeability.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell, Yeast, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Cell cycle, Nuclear pore, Mitosis, Ran


The Newcastle disease virus (NDV) matrix (M) protein has been demonstrated to be a nuclear-cytoplasmic trafficking protein. Previous studies have shown that the M protein localizes in the nucleus through a bipartite nuclear localization signal. Here, we report that the ability of the M protein to shuttle to the cytoplasm is mediated by three nuclear export signal sequences (NESs). Using leptomycin B (LMB), a specific inhibitor of CRM1, we found that the nuclear export of the three NESs was LMB insensitive and thus was CRM1 independent. In addition, inactivation of these NESs led to nuclear accumulation of the M protein. Our results highlight the significance of these NESs to the nuclear export of the NDV M protein.

Concepts: DNA, Cell nucleus, Cell biology, Newcastle disease, Molecular genetics, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Nuclear export signal


Human bocavirus (HBoV), closely related to canine minute virus (MVC) and bovine parvovirus (BPV), is a new member of the Bocavirus genus within the Parvoviridae family. The non-structural protein NP1 of HBoV is a nuclear localized protein and plays important role in DNA replication as well as in the evasion of host innate immunity. In the current study, we provide the first evidence that NP1 possesses a non-classical nuclear localization signal (ncNLS) (amino acids 7-50). Embedded within this ncNLS is a classical bipartite nuclear localization signal (cNLS) (amino acids 14-28), capable of promoting a heterologous cytoplasmic protein β-galactosidase fusion protein (β-gal-EGFP) to the nucleus via the classical importin α/β1-mediated pathway. Amino acids 7-50 containing the cNLS and the ncNLS of NP1 or full-length NP1 interact with importin α1, importin β1 and importin β1Δ which lacks the importin α binding domain, indicating that the nuclear import of NP1 is through both conventional importin α/β1 heterodimer- and non-classical importin β1-mediated pathways. Given that the arrangement of a cNLS embedded within an ncNLS is unusual in viral proteins, our data together reveal a novel molecular mechanism underlying the nuclear import of HBoV NP1, providing basis for further understanding its biological function.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cell, Virus, Cell biology, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Importin


The nuclear protein I(2)(PP2A)/SET, an endogenous inhibitor of protein phosphatase-2A (PP2A), is increased and translocated to the cytoplasm in the neurons of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) brains, and PP2A activity in cytoplasm is compromised. However, it is not fully understood how SET is retained in the cytoplasm. By generating a phosphorylation site-specific antibody, we found in the present study that SET is phosphorylated at Ser9, by which it is accumulated in the cytoplasm of the AD brains. Further studies demonstrate that both the phosphor-mimic and casein kinase (CK)II-mediated phosphorylation at Ser9 interferes with the formation of the SET/importin-α/importin-β complex, and thus inhibits SET nuclear import and induces the cytoplasmic detention of SET. Interestingly, Ser9 is nested in the center of the sequence (6)AKVSKK(11) of SET, which is consistent with a classical nuclear localization signal (NLS). To test whether (6)AKVSKK(11) is a new NLS of SET, we mutated SET lysine 7, lysine 10, and lysine 11 to alanine acid (K7A, K10A, K11A) respectively, and expressed these mutants in HEK293/tau cells. We found that expression of SET (K11A) led to a nuclear import defect of SET, and application of a synthesized peptide Tat-AAKVSKKE that can competitively bind to importin α/β resulted in cytoplasmic detention of SET. Finally, phosphorylation of SET aggravates PP2A inhibition and leads to tau hyperphosphorylation. In conclusion, the current study has identified a novel mechanism that causes cytoplasmic detention of SET with a new NLS-dependent CKII-associated phosphorylation of Ser9, suggesting that inhibition of CKII arrests cytoplasmic accumulation of SET and thus preserves PP2A activity in AD brains.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Protein, Cell nucleus, Cell biology, Peptide, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Importin


The ability of the matrix (M) protein of potato yellow dwarf virus (PYDV) to remodel nuclear membranes is controlled by a di-leucine motif located at residues 223 and 224 of its primary structure. This function can be uncoupled from that of its nuclear localization signal (NLS), which is controlled primarily by lysine and arginine residues immediately downstream of the LL motif. In planta localization of green fluorescent protein fusions, bimolecular fluorescence complementation assays with nuclear import receptor importin-α1 and yeast-based nuclear import assays provided three independent experimental approaches to validate the authenticity of the M-NLS. The carboxy terminus of M is predicted to contain a nuclear export signal, which is belived to be functional, given the ability of M to bind the Arabidopsis nuclear export receptor 1 (XPO1). The nuclear shuttle activity of M has implications for the cell-to-cell movement of PYDV nucleocapsids, based upon its interaction with the N and Y proteins.

Concepts: Protein, Amino acid, Cell biology, Green fluorescent protein, Molecular genetics, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Nuclear export signal


During antiviral defense, interferon (IFN) signaling triggers nuclear transport of tyrosine-phosphorylated STAT1 (PY-STAT1), which occurs via a subset of karyopherin alpha (KPNA) nuclear transporters. Many viruses, including Ebola virus, actively antagonize STAT1 signaling to counteract the antiviral effects of IFN. Ebola virus VP24 protein (eVP24) binds KPNA to inhibit PY-STAT1 nuclear transport and render cells refractory to IFNs. We describe the structure of human KPNA5 C terminus in complex with eVP24. In the complex, eVP24 recognizes a unique nonclassical nuclear localization signal (NLS) binding site on KPNA5 that is necessary for efficient PY-STAT1 nuclear transport. eVP24 binds KPNA5 with very high affinity to effectively compete with and inhibit PY-STAT1 nuclear transport. In contrast, eVP24 binding does not affect the transport of classical NLS cargo. Thus, eVP24 counters cell-intrinsic innate immunity by selectively targeting PY-STAT1 nuclear import while leaving the transport of other cargo that may be required for viral replication unaffected.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Virus, Innate immune system, Cell biology, Interferon, Ran, Importin


Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is the most common cause of dementia in people under 60 yr of age and is pathologically associated with mislocalization of TAR DNA/RNA binding protein 43 (TDP-43) in approximately half of cases (FLTD-TDP). Mutations in the gene encoding progranulin (GRN), which lead to reduced progranulin levels, are a significant cause of familial FTLD-TDP. Grn-KO mice were developed as an FTLD model, but lack cortical TDP-43 mislocalization and neurodegeneration. Here, we report retinal thinning as an early disease phenotype in humans with GRN mutations that precedes dementia onset and an age-dependent retinal neurodegenerative phenotype in Grn-KO mice. Retinal neuron loss in Grn-KO mice is preceded by nuclear depletion of TDP-43 and accompanied by reduced expression of the small GTPase Ran, which is a master regulator of nuclear import required for nuclear localization of TDP-43. In addition, TDP-43 regulates Ran expression, likely via binding to its 3'-UTR. Augmented expression of Ran in progranulin-deficient neurons restores nuclear TDP-43 levels and improves their survival. Our findings establish retinal neurodegeneration as a new phenotype in progranulin-deficient FTLD, and suggest a pathological loop involving reciprocal loss of Ran and nuclear TDP-43 as an underlying mechanism.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Neurology, Retina, Frontotemporal dementia, Nuclear localization signal, Frontotemporal lobar degeneration, Ran


Nucleocytoplasmic transport is sustained by karyopherins (Kaps) and a Ran guanosine triphosphate (RanGTP) gradient that imports nuclear localization signal (NLS)-specific cargoes (NLS-cargoes) into the nucleus. However, how nuclear pore complex (NPC) barrier selectivity, Kap traffic, and NLS-cargo release are systematically linked and simultaneously regulated remains incoherent. In this study, we show that Kapα facilitates Kapβ1 turnover and occupancy at the NPC in a RanGTP-dependent manner that is directly coupled to NLS-cargo release and NPC barrier function. This is underpinned by the binding affinity of Kapβ1 to phenylalanine-glycine nucleoporins (FG Nups), which is comparable with RanGTP·Kapβ1, but stronger for Kapα·Kapβ1. On this basis, RanGTP is ineffective at releasing standalone Kapβ1 from NPCs. Depleting Kapα·Kapβ1 by RanGTP further abrogates NPC barrier function, whereas adding back Kapβ1 rescues it while Kapβ1 turnover softens it. Therefore, the FG Nups are necessary but insufficient for NPC barrier function. We conclude that Kaps constitute integral constituents of the NPC whose barrier, transport, and cargo release functionalities establish a continuum under a mechanism of Kap-centric control.

Concepts: Cell nucleus, Cell biology, Nuclear pore, Nuclear localization signal, Cargo, Ran, Nuclear export signal, Importin


Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) is believed to underlie formation of biomolecular condensates, cellular compartments that concentrate macromolecules without surrounding membranes. Physical mechanisms that control condensate formation/dissolution are poorly understood. The RNA-binding protein fused in sarcoma (FUS) undergoes LLPS in vitro and associates with condensates in cells. We show that the importin karyopherin-β2/transportin-1 inhibits LLPS of FUS. This activity depends on tight binding of karyopherin-β2 to the C-terminal proline-tyrosine nuclear localization signal (PY-NLS) of FUS. Nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) analyses reveal weak interactions of karyopherin-β2 with sequence elements and structural domains distributed throughout the entirety of FUS. Biochemical analyses demonstrate that most of these same regions also contribute to LLPS of FUS. The data lead to a model where high-affinity binding of karyopherin-β2 to the FUS PY-NLS tethers the proteins together, allowing multiple, distributed weak intermolecular contacts to disrupt FUS self-association, blocking LLPS. Karyopherin-β2 may act analogously to control condensates in diverse cellular contexts.

Concepts: Protein, Cell biology, Nuclear magnetic resonance, Biochemistry, Nuclear localization signal, Ran, Nuclear export signal, Importin