Conserved SR protein kinase functions in nuclear import and its action is counteracted by arginine methylation in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.
Mammalian serine and arginine-rich (SR) proteins play important roles in both constitutive and regulated splicing, and SR protein-specific kinases (SRPKs) are conserved from humans to yeast. Here, we demonstrate a novel function of the single conserved SR protein kinase Sky1p in nuclear import in budding yeast. The yeast SR-like protein Npl3p is known to enter the nucleus through a composite nuclear localization signal (NLS) consisting of a repetitive arginine- glycine-glycine (RGG) motif and a nonrepetitive sequence. We found that the latter is the site for phosphorylation by Sky1p and that this phosphorylation regulates nuclear import of Npl3p by modulating the interaction of the RGG motif with its nuclear import receptor Mtr10p. The RGG motif is also methylated on arginine residues, but methylation does not affect the Npl3p-Mtr10p interaction in vitro. Remarkably, arginine methylation interferes with Sky1p-mediated phosphorylation, thereby indirectly influencing the Npl3p-Mtr10p interaction in vivo and negatively regulating nuclear import of Npl3p. These results suggest that nuclear import of Npl3p is coordinately influenced by methylation and phosphorylation in budding yeast, which may represent conserved components in the dynamic regulation of RNA processing in higher eukaryotic cells.