We report the identification and molecular characterization of a novel nucleolar protein of rat liver. As shown by coimmunoprecipitation this protein is associated with a previously identified nucleolar protein, Nopp140, in an apparently stoichiometric complex and has therefore been termed NAP57 (Nopp140-associated protein of 57 kD). Immunofluorescence and immunogold electron microscopy with NAP57 specific antibodies show colocalization with Nopp140 to the dense fibrillar component of the nucleolus, to coiled bodies, and to the nucleoplasm. Immunogold staining in the nucleoplasm is occasionally seen in the form of curvilinear tracks between the nucleolus and the nuclear envelope, similar to those previously reported for Nopp140. These data suggest that Nopp140 and NAP57 are indeed associated with each other in these nuclear structures. The cDNA deduced primary structure of NAP57 shows a protein of a calculated molecular mass of 52,070 that contains a putative nuclear localization signal near its amino and carboxy terminus and a hydrophobic amino acid repeat motif extending across 84 residues. Like Nopp140, NAP57 lacks any of the known consensus sequences for RNA binding which are characteristic for many nucleolar proteins. Data bank searches revealed that NAP57 is a highly conserved protein. A putative yeast (S. cerevisiae) homolog is 71% identical. Most strikingly, there also appears to be a smaller prokaryotic (E. coli and B. subtilis) homolog that is nearly 50% identical to NAP57. This indicates that NAP57 and its putative homologs might serve a highly conserved function in both pro- and eukaryotes such as chaperoning of ribosomal proteins and/or of preribosome assembly.

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