Indexed on: 27 Sep '12Published on: 27 Sep '12Published in: Journal of Biological Chemistry
Among the known pathways of protein nuclear import, the karyopherin β2/transportin pathway is only the second to have a defined nuclear localization signal (NLS) consensus. Huntingtin, a 350-kDa protein, has defined roles in the nucleus, as well as a CRM1/exportin-dependent nuclear export signal; however, the NLS and exact pathway of import have remained elusive. Here, using a live cell assay and affinity chromatography, we show that huntingtin has a karyopherin β2-dependent proline-tyrosine (PY)-NLS in the amino terminus of the protein. This NLS comprises three consensus components: a basic charged sequence, a downstream conserved arginine, and a PY sequence. Unlike the classic PY-NLS, which has an unstructured intervening sequence between the consensus components, we show that a β sheet structured region separating the consensus elements is critical for huntingtin NLS function. The huntingtin PY-NLS is also capable of import through the importin/karyopherin β1 pathway but was not functional in all cell types tested. We propose that this huntingtin PY-NLS may comprise a new class of multiple import factor-dependent NLSs with an internal structural component that may regulate NLS activity.