The EMBO journal

Nuclear import of U snRNPs requires importin beta.

PMID 9362492


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.