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Open Access Open Badges Research article

Karyopherin binding interactions and nuclear import mechanism of nuclear pore complex protein Tpr

Iris Ben-Efraim1, Phyllis D Frosst12 and Larry Gerace1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA

2 National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Cell Biology 2009, 10:74  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-10-74

Published: 16 October 2009



Tpr is a large protein with an extended coiled-coil domain that is localized within the nuclear basket of the nuclear pore complex. Previous studies [1] involving antibody microinjection into mammalian cells suggested a role for Tpr in nuclear export of proteins via the CRM1 export receptor. In addition, Tpr was found to co-immunoprecipitate with importins α and β from Xenopus laevis egg extracts [2], although the function of this is unresolved. Yeast Mlp1p and Mlp2p, which are homologous to vertebrate Tpr, have been implicated in mRNA surveillance to retain unspliced mRNAs in the nucleus[3,4]. To augment an understanding of the role of Tpr in nucleocytoplasmic trafficking, we explored the interactions of recombinant Tpr with the karyopherins CRM1, importin β and importin α by solid phase binding assays. We also investigated the conditions required for nuclear import of Tpr using an in vitro assay.


We found that Tpr binds strongly and specifically to importin α, importin β, and a CRM1 containing trimeric export complex, and that the binding sites for importins α and β are distinct. We also determined that the nuclear import of Tpr is dependent on cytosolic factors and energy and is efficiently mediated by the importin α/β import pathway.


Based on the binding and nuclear import assays, we propose that Tpr is imported into the nucleus by the importin α/β heterodimer. In addition, we suggest that Tpr can serve as a nucleoporin binding site for importin β during import of importin β cargo complexes and/or importin β recycling. Our finding that Tpr bound preferentially to CRM1 in an export complex strengthens the notion that Tpr is involved in protein export.