Many nuclear proteins are imported into the cell nucleus by the 'classical' nuclear localization signal (NLS)-mediated import pathway. In this pathway, a sequence rich in basic residues in the protein interacts with a heterodimeric complex termed importin and this, along with the GTPase Ran, mediates nuclear import of the NLS-bearing protein. The heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoprotein (hnRNP) A1 protein contains a novel nuclear localization sequence, termed M9, that does not contain any clusters of basic residues. Very recently, we showed that M9 directs import into the nucleus by a novel protein import pathway distinct from the classical NLS pathway. A 90- kilodalton protein termed transportin was identified as a protein that specifically interacts with wild-type M9 but not transport-defective M9 mutants. Transportin and an ATP-regenerating system were found to be necessary and sufficient for import of M9-containing proteins in an in vitro import assay. In this report, we provide additional evidence that transportin can interact directly with M9-containing proteins and also show that it can mediate import of full-length hnRNP A1. In addition, Ran, or a Ran-binding protein, is identified as a second protein component of this novel nuclear import pathway. Transportin relatives from Saccharomyces cerevisiae which likely serve as additional nuclear transport receptors are described.
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