It has recently been shown that large karyophilic proteins are transported across the nuclear envelope in amphibian oocytes. In consideration of this, the present experiments were performed to identify the specific sites within the envelope through which transport occurs and determine if molecular size is a limiting factor in the transport process. The following experimental procedure was employed: Colloidal gold particles, varying in size from approximately 20 to 170 A in diameter were coated with nucleoplasmin, a 165,000-mol-wt karyophilic protein, which is known to be transported through the envelope. The coated gold particles were microinjected into the cytoplasm of Xenopus oocytes, and the cells were fixed 15 min and 1 h later. The intracellular localization of the gold was then determined with the electron microscope. It was found that nucleoplasmin-coated particles readily enter the nucleus. On the basis of the distribution of the particles associated with the envelope, we concluded that transport occurs through the nuclear pores. Furthermore, the size distributions of the gold particles present in the nucleus and cytoplasm were not significantly different, indicating that the envelope does not discriminate among particles with diameters ranging from 50 to 200 A (the dimensions including the nucleoplasmin coat). Colloidal gold coated with trypsin-digested nucleoplasmin (which lacks the polypeptide domain required for transport) or exogenous polyvinylpyrrolidone were largely excluded from the nucleus and showed no evidence of transport.

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