The movement between nuclei of an integral protein of the inner nuclear membrane has been studied in rat/mouse and rat/hamster heterokaryons. This protein, p55, was found to equilibrate between nuclei over a period of approximately 6 h in the absence of new protein synthesis. When rat/mouse heterokaryons were constructed using an undifferentiated murine embryonal carcinoma (P19), which lacks lamins A and C, no accumulation of p55 in the mouse cell nucleus was observed. However, P19 nuclei could be rendered competent to accumulate p55 by transfecting the parent cells with human lamin A before cell fusion, supporting the notion that p55 may interact with the nuclear lamina. Since p55 does not appear to be able to dissociate from the nuclear membrane, it is concluded that this exchange between nuclei does not occur in the aqueous phase and instead is probably membrane mediated. It is proposed that this protein may be free to move between the inner and outer nuclear membranes via the continuities at the nuclear pore complexes and that transfer between nuclei occurs via lateral diffusion through the peripheral ER, which appears to form a single continuous membrane system in these heterokaryons. One implication of these observations is that accumulation of at least some integral proteins in the inner nuclear membrane may be mediated by interactions with other nuclear components and may not require a single defined targeting sequence.

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