In a screen for Saccharomyces cerevisiae genes required for nucleocytoplasmic transport of messenger RNA, we identified the RAT7 gene (ribonucleic acid trafficking), which encodes an essential protein of 1,460 amino acids. Rat7p is located at the nuclear rim in a punctate pattern characteristic of nucleoporins. Furthermore, the central third of Rat7p contains 22 XXFG and three XFXFG degenerate repeats that are similar to signature GLFG and XFXFG repeats present in a majority of yeast and some mammalian nucleoporins sequenced to date. Shift of a strain bearing the temperature-sensitive rat7-1 allele from 23 degrees C to 37 degrees C resulted in rapid (within 15 minutes) cessation of mRNA export, but did not cause concomitant cytoplasmic accumulation of a reporter protein bearing a nuclear localization signal. This suggests that Rat7p may play a direct role in nucleocytoplasmic export of RNA. Immunofluorescence and thin section electron microscopy revealed that in rat7-1 cells grown at 23 degrees C, the majority of nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) were clustered on one side of the nucleus. No ultrastructural abnormalities of the nuclear envelope were seen. Interestingly, shifting rat7-1 cells to 37 degrees C for 1 h caused the NPCs to disperse, restoring near wild-type NPC distribution. After this temperature shift, the mutant Rat7p was no longer detectable by immunofluorescence.

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