A family of proteins bearing novel N-acetylglucosamine residues has previously been found to be required to form functional nuclear pores. To begin to determine which of the proteins in this family are essential for pore function, antisera were raised to each of three members of the family, p62, p58, and p54. With these antisera, it was possible to deplete nuclear reconstitution extracts of the proteins and to test the depleted nuclei for nuclear transport. In the course of the experiments, it was found that the three proteins exist as a complex; antisera to any one, while specific on a protein blot, coimmunoprecipitated all three proteins. This complex of pore proteins is stable to 2 M salt, 2 M urea, and the detergent Mega 10, indicating the presence of specific and tight protein-protein interactions. By gel filtration, the complex has a molecular mass of 550-600 kD. Nuclei containing pores depleted of the complex are found to be defective for nuclear transport; moreover, we observe a strict linear correlation between the amount of complex present in nuclei and the amount of nuclear transport of which those nuclei are capable. Thus, the p62-p58-p54 complex defines a group of proteins with strong protein-protein interactions that form a unit of pore structure essential for pore function.
Selective transport of proteins is a major mechanism by which biochemical differences are maintained between the cytoplasm and nucleus. To begin to investigate the molecular mechanism of nuclear transport, we used an in vitro transport system composed of a Xenopus egg extract, rat liver nuclei, and a fluorescently labeled nuclear protein, nucleoplasmin. With this system, we screened for inhibitors of transport. We found that the lectin, wheat germ agglutinin (WGA), completely inhibits the nuclear transport of fluorescently labeled nucleoplasmin. No other lectin tested affected nuclear transport. The inhibition by WGA was not seen when N-acetylglucosamine was present and was reversible by subsequent addition of sugar. When rat liver nuclei that had been incubated with ferritin-labeled WGA were examined by electron microscopy, multiple molecules of WGA were found bound to the cytoplasmic face of each nuclear pore. Gel electrophoresis and nitrocellulose transfer identified one major and several minor nuclear protein bands as binding 125I-labeled WGA. The most abundant protein of these, a 63-65-kD glycoprotein, is a candidate for the inhibitory site of action of WGA on nuclear protein transport. WGA is the first identified inhibitor of nuclear protein transport and interacts directly with the nuclear pore.
An in vitro system was developed that provides a quick microscopic assay for nuclear transport. The assay uses an extract of Xenopus eggs, normal or synthetic nuclei, and a fluorescently labeled nuclear protein, nucleoplasmin. This in vitro system accurately mimics in vivo nuclear transport, both in exclusivity and in the amount of accumulation observed (up to 17-fold). Selective accumulation of fluorescent nucleoplasmin is observed microscopically within 30 min with rat liver nuclei, Xenopus embryonic nuclei, regrown Xenopus sperm nuclei, or nuclei reconstituted in vitro from bacteriophage lambda DNA. This transport requires the signal domain of nucleoplasmin. Furthermore, the ability of nuclei to accumulate nucleoplasmin directly correlates with their ability to exclude the fluorescent non-nuclear proteins, FITC-immunoglobulin and phycoerythrin. An active transport model would predict that nuclear transport be temperature- and energy-dependent and that inhibition of transport by either low temperature or energy depletion would be reversible. Both predictions were confirmed in our system. Nucleoplasmin accumulation increases with temperature, while the protein is completely excluded at 0 degrees C. The effects of low temperature are reversible. As found for 125I-labeled nucleoplasmin (Newmeyer, D. D., J. M. Lucocq, T. R. Bürglin, and E. M. De Robertis, 1986, EMBO (Eur. Mol. Biol. Organ.) J., 5:501-510), transport of fluorescent nucleoplasmin is inhibited by ATP depletion. This effect is reversed by later ATP addition. Under ATP-depleted conditions non-nuclear proteins continue to be excluded. These results argue for a direct role of ATP in transport rather than for a simple role in preserving envelope integrity. In a first step towards defining the minimum requirements for a transport medium, egg extracts were depleted of membrane vesicles. Membrane-depleted extracts neither support transport nor maintain the integrity of the nuclear envelope.