A key event in nuclear formation is the assembly of functional nuclear pores. We have used a nuclear reconstitution system derived from Xenopus eggs to examine the process of nuclear pore assembly in vitro. With this system, we have identified three reagents which interfere with nuclear pore assembly, NEM, GTP gamma S, and the Ca++ chelator, BAPTA. These reagents have allowed us to determine that the assembly of a nuclear pore requires the prior assembly of a double nuclear membrane. Inhibition of nuclear vesicle fusion by pretreatment of the membrane vesicle fraction with NEM blocks pore complex assembly. In contrast, NEM treatment of already fused double nuclear membranes does not block pore assembly. This indicates that NEM inhibits a single step in pore assembly--the initial fusion of vesicles required to form a double nuclear membrane. The presence of GTP gamma S blocks pore assembly at two distinct steps, first by preventing fusion between nuclear vesicles, and second by blocking a step in pore assembly that occurs on already fused double nuclear membranes. Interestingly, when the Ca2+ chelator BAPTA is added to a nuclear assembly reaction, it only transiently blocks nuclear vesicle fusion, but completely blocks nuclear pore assembly. This results in the formation of a nucleus surrounded by a double nuclear membrane, but devoid of nuclear pores. To order the positions at which GTP gamma S and BAPTA interfere with pore assembly, a novel anchored nuclear assembly assay was developed. This assay revealed that the BAPTA-sensitive step in pore assembly occurs after the second GTP gamma S-sensitive step. Thus, through use of an in vitro nuclear reconstitution system, it has been possible to biochemically define and order multiple steps in nuclear pore assembly.

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