We analyzed the nuclear import and regulation of the yeast histone variant Htz1 (H2A.Z), and the role of histone chaperones Nap1 and Chz1 in this process. Copurification suggested that Htz1 and H2B dimerized in the cytoplasm prior to import. Like H2B, Htz1 contained a nuclear localization signal (NLS) in its N-terminus that is recognized by multiple karyopherins (also called importins), indicating multiple transport pathways into the nucleus. However, Kap114 and Kap123 appeared to play the major role in Htz1 import. We also identified a role for Nap1 in the import of Htz1/H2B heterodimers, and Nap1 formed a RanGTP-insensitive import complex with Htz1/H2B and Kap114. Nap1 was necessary for maintaining a soluble pool of Htz1, indicating that its chaperone function may be important for the dynamic exchange of histones within nucleosomes. In contrast, Chz1 was imported by a distinct import pathway, and Chz1 did not appear to interact with Htz1 in the cytoplasm. Genetic analysis indicated that NAP1 has a function in the absence of HTZ1 that is not shared with CHZ1. This provides further evidence that the histone chaperones Nap1 and Chz1 have separate Htz1-dependent and -independent functions.
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