RCC1 isoforms differ in their affinity for chromatin, molecular interactions and regulation by phosphorylation.
RCC1 is the guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Ran GTPase. Generation of Ran-GTP by RCC1 on chromatin provides a spatial signal that directs nucleocytoplasmic transport, mitotic spindle assembly and nuclear envelope formation. We show that RCC1 is expressed in human cells as at least three isoforms, named RCC1alpha, RCC1beta and RCC1gamma, which are expressed at different levels in specific tissues. The beta and gamma isoforms contain short inserts in their N-terminal regions (NTRs) that are not present in RCC1alpha. This region mediates interaction with chromatin, binds importin alpha3 and/or importin beta, and contains regulatory phosphorylation sites. RCC1gamma is predominantly localised to the nucleus and mitotic chromosomes like RCC1alpha. However, compared to RCC1alpha, RCC1gamma has a greatly reduced interaction with an importin alpha3-beta and a stronger interaction with chromatin that is mediated by the extended NTR. RCC1gamma is also the isoform that is most highly phosphorylated at serine 11 in mitosis. Unlike RCC1alpha, RCC1gamma supports cell proliferation in tsBN2 cells more efficiently when serine 11 is mutated to non-phosphorylatable alanine. Phosphorylation of RCC1gamma therefore specifically controls its function during mitosis. These results show that human RCC1 isoforms have distinct chromatin binding properties, different molecular interactions, and are selectively regulated by phosphorylation, as determined by their different NTRs.