Nuclear transport of the U1 snRNP-specific protein U1A has been examined. U1A moves to the nucleus by an active process which is independent of interaction with U1 snRNA. Nuclear localization requires an unusually large sequence element situated between amino acids 94 and 204 of the protein. U1A transport is not unidirectional. The protein shuttles between nucleus and cytoplasm. At equilibrium, the concentration of the protein in the nucleus and cytoplasm is not, however, determined solely by transport rates, but can be perturbed by introducing RNA sequences that can specifically bind U1A in either the nuclear or cytoplasmic compartment. Thus, U1A represents a novel class of protein which shuttles between cytoplasm and nucleus and whose intracellular distribution can be altered by the number of free binding sites for the protein present in the cytoplasm or the nucleus.

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