Nucleo-cytoplasmic distribution of human hnRNP proteins: a search for the targeting domains in hnRNP A1.J Cell Sci. 1995 Feb; 108 (Pt 2):545-55.JC
hnRNP A1 (34 kDa) is an RNA binding protein consisting of two tandemly arranged RNA binding domains C-terminally linked to a glycine-rich auxiliary domain (2 x RBD-Gly). A1 belongs to the set of polypeptides that bind nascent hnRNA in the nucleus to form the so called hnRNP complexes. These complexes seem to be involved both in pre-mRNA processing and in the nuclear export of mRNA. In fact A1, along with other hnRNP proteins, is exported from the nucleus probably bound to mRNA and is immediately re-imported. A1 nuclear re-import, which requires active transcription, is not mediated by a canonical nuclear localisation signal (NLS). To identify the determinants of A1 subcellular localisation we developed an expression vector for studying the localisation, in transiently transfected cells, of the different structural motifs of A1 fused to a small reporter protein (chloramphenicol acetyltransferase, CAT; 26 kDa). We demonstrate that a 30 amino acid sequence in the glycine-rich domain (YNDFGNYNNQSSNFGPMKGGNFGGRSSGPY), which bears no resemblance to canonical NLS, is necessary and sufficient to target the protein to the nucleus. Our data suggest that this targeting sequence might act by mediating the interaction of A1 with a NLS-containing nuclear import complex. On the other hand, the nuclear export of A1 requires at least one RNA binding domain in accord with the hypothesis that A1 exits from the nucleus bound to mRNA. We propose a mechanism for the nucleo-cytoplasmic shuttling of A1 that envisages a specific role for the different structural domains and can explain the dependence of nuclear import from active transcription.