Nucleo-cytoplasmic transport of proteins is mostly mediated by specific interaction between transport receptors of the importin beta family and signal sequences present in their cargo. While several signal sequences, in particular the classical nuclear localization signal (NLS) recognized by the heterodimeric importin alpha/beta complex are well known, the signals recognized by other importin beta-like transport receptors remain to be characterized in detail. Here we present the systematic analysis of the nuclear import of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Asr1p, a nonessential alcohol-responsive Ring/PHD finger protein that shuttles between nucleus and cytoplasm but accumulates in the nucleus upon alcohol stress. Nuclear import of Asr1p is constitutive and mediated by its C-terminal domain. A short sequence comprising residues 243-280 is sufficient and necessary for active targeting to the nucleus. Moreover, the nuclear import signal is conserved from yeast to mammals. In vitro, the nuclear localization signal of Asr1p directly interacts with the importins Kap114p, Kap95p, Pse1p, Kap123p, or Kap104p, interactions that are sensitive to the presence of RanGTP. In vivo, these importins cooperate in nuclear import. Interestingly, the same importins mediate nuclear transport of histone H2A. Based on mutational analysis and sequence comparison with a region mediating nuclear import of histone H2A, we identified a novel type of NLS with the consensus sequence R/KxxL(x)(n)V/YxxV/IxK/RxxxK/R that is recognized by five yeast importins and connects them into a highly efficient network for nuclear import of proteins.
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