Nuclear respiratory factor 2 (NRF-2) is a mammalian transcription factor composed of two distinct and unrelated proteins: NRF-2α, which binds to DNA through its Ets domain, and NRF-2β, which contains the transcription activation domain. The activity of NRF-2 in neurons is regulated by nuclear localization; however, the mechanism by which NRF-2 is imported into the nucleus remains unknown. By using in vitro nuclear import assays and immuno-cytofluorescence, we dissect the nuclear import pathways of NRF-2. We show that both NRF-2α and NRF-2β contain intrinsic nuclear localization signals (NLSs): the Ets domain within NRF-2α and the NLS within NRF-2β (amino acids 311/321: EEPPAKRQCIE) that is recognized by importin-α:β. When NRF-2α and NRF-2β form a complex, the nuclear import of NRF-2αβ becomes strictly dependent on the NLS within NRF-2β. Therefore, the nuclear import mechanism of NRF-2 is unique among Ets factors. The NRF-2β NLS contains only two lysine/arginine residues, unlike other known importin-α:β-dependent NLSs. Using ELISA-based binding assays, we show that it is bound by importin-α in almost the same manner and with similar affinity to that of the classical monopartite NLSs, such as c-myc and SV40 T-antigen NLSs. However, the part of the tryptophan array of importin-α that is essential for the recognition of classical monopartite NLSs by generating apolar pockets for the P3 and the P5 lysine/arginine side chains is not required for the recognition of the NRF-2β NLS. We conclude that the NRF-2β NLS is an unusual but is, nevertheless, a bona fide monopartite-type NLS.
- Ets transcription factor
- In vitro nuclear import assay
- Native gel protein binding assay
- Nuclear import
- Protein binding via cysteine
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology