Formation of the nuclear pore is an intricate process involving membrane fusion and the ordered assembly of up to 1,000 pore proteins. As such, the study of pore assembly is not a simple one. Interestingly, annulate lamellae, a cytoplasmic organelle consisting of stacks of flattened membrane cisternae perforated by numerous pore complexes, have been found to form spontaneously in a reconstitution system derived from Xenopus egg extracts, as determined by electron microscopy (Dabauvalle et al., 1991). In this work, a biochemical assay for annulate lamellae (AL) formation was developed and used to study the mechanism of AL assembly in general and the assembly of individual nucleoporins into pore complexes in particular. Upon incubation of Xenopus egg cytosol and membrane vesicles, the nucleoporins nup58, nup60, nup97, nup153, and nup200 initially present in a disassembled form in the cytosol became associated with membranes and were pelletable. The association was time and temperature dependent and could be measured by immunoblotting. Thin-section electron microscopy as well as negative staining confirmed that annulate lamellae were forming coincident with the incorporation of pore proteins into membranes. Homogenization and subsequent flotation of the membrane fraction allowed us to separate a population of dense membranes, containing the integral membrane pore protein gp210 and all other nucleoporins tested, from the bulk of cellular membranes. Electron microscopy indicated that annulate lamellae were enriched in this dense, pore protein-containing fraction. GTP gamma S prevented incorporation of the soluble pore proteins into membranes. To address whether AL form in the absence of N-acetylglucosaminylated pore proteins, AL assembly was carried out in WGA-sepharose-depleted cytosol. Under these conditions, annulate lamellae formed but were altered in appearance. When the membrane fraction containing this altered AL was homogenized and subjected to flotation, the pore protein-containing membranes still sedimented in a distinct peak but were less dense than control annulate lamellae.

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