Fluorescence microphotolysis (photobleaching) was used to measure, in single polyethylene glycol-induced polykaryons of hepatoma tissue culture cells, nucleocytoplasmic flux and intracellular mobility for a series of dextrans ranging in molecular mass from 3 to 150 kD and for bovine serum albumin. For the dextrans, the cytoplasmic and the nucleoplasmic translational diffusion coefficients amounted to approximately 9 and approximately 15%, respectively, of the value in dilute buffer. The diffusion coefficients depended inversely on molecular radius, suggesting that diffusion was dominated by viscosity effects. By application of the Stokes-Einstein equation, cytoplasmic and nucleoplasmic viscosities were derived to be 6.6 and 8.1 cP, respectively, at 23 degrees C. Between 10 and 37 degrees C nucleoplasmic diffusion coefficients increased by approximately 45-85%, whereas cytoplasmic diffusion coefficients were virtually independent of temperature. In contrast to that of the dextrans, diffusion of bovine serum albumin was more restricted. In the cytoplasm the diffusion coefficient was approximately 1.5% of the value in dilute buffer; in the nucleus albumin was largely immobile. This indicated that albumin mobility is dominated by association with immobile cellular structures. Nucleocytoplasmic flux of dextrans depended inversely on molecular mass with an exclusion limit between 17 and 41 kD. This agrees with previous measurements on primary hepatocytes (Peters, R., 1984, EMBO [Eur. Mol. Biol. Organ.] J. 3:1831-1836), suggesting that in both cell types the nuclear envelope has properties of a molecular sieve with a functional pore radius of approximately 55 A.

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