Protein prenylation is a posttranslational modification involving the covalent attachment of a prenyl lipid to a cysteine at or near the COOH terminus of a protein. It is required for membrane localization and efficient function of a number of cytoplasmic as well as nuclear proteins including the proto-oncogenic and activated forms of Ras. Farnesylation in conjunction with a nuclear localization signal has been shown to be necessary to target newly synthesized nuclear lamins to the inner nuclear envelope membrane. It is, however, not clear where in the cell isoprenylation of nuclear lamins takes place. In this study we describe in vivo and in vitro experiments on the isoprenylation of the Xenopus oocyte nuclear lamin B3. We show by kinetic analysis that newly synthesized lamins are isoprenylated in the cytosol of oocytes before uptake into the nucleus. From our data it can be concluded that isoprenylation of lamins in the nucleus, as it is observed under certain conditions of isoprene starvation, represents a default pathway rather than the physiological situation. We further analyzed the capacity of isolated nuclei to carry out isoprenylation of B3. Our results are in line with a dual localization of a protein farnesyltransferase in the cytosol and nuclei of amphibian oocytes. Implications for the possible functions of a nuclear protein farnesyltransferase as well as possible mechanisms of the selective inhibition of farnesylation of cytoplasmic proteins by peptidomimetics are discussed.

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