The nuclear localization sequences of the BRCA1 protein interact with the importin-α subunit of the nuclear transport signal receptor

Chi Fen Chen, Shang Li, Yumay Chen, Phang Lang Chen, Z. Dave Sharp, Wen Hwa Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

190 Scopus citations


The BRCA1 gene product is a nuclear phosphoprotein that is aberrantly localized in the cytoplasm of most breast cancer cells. In an attempt to elucidate the potential mechanism for the nuclear transport of BRCA1 protein, three regions of highly charged, basic residues, 503KRKRRP508, 606PKKNRLRRKS615, and 651KKKKYN656, were identified as potential nuclear localization signals (NLSs). These three regions were subsequently mutated to 503KLP508, 607KLS615, and 651KLN656, respectively. Wild-type and mutated proteins were tagged with the flag epitope, expressed in human DU145 cells, and detected with the M2 monoclonal antibody. In DU145 cells, the KLP mutant completely fails to localize in nuclei, whereas the KLS mutant is mostly cytoplasmic with occasional nuclear localization. The KLN protein is always located in nuclei. Consistently, hSRP1α (importin-α), a component of the NLS receptor complex, was identified in a yeast two-hybrid screen using BRCA1 as the bait. The specificity of the interaction between BRCA1 and importin-α was further demonstrated by showing that the 503KRKRRP508 and 606PKKNRLRRKS615 regions, but not 651KKKKYN656, are critical for this interaction. To determine if the cytoplasmic mislocation of endogenous BRCA1 in breast cancer cells is due to a deficiency of the cells, wild-type BRCA1 protein tagged with the flag epitope was ectopically expressed in six breast cancer cell lines. The analysis demonstrated that, in all six, this protein localized in the cytoplasm of these cells. In contrast, expression of the construct in four non-breast cancer cell lines resulted in nuclear localization. These data support the possibility that the mislocation of the BRCA1 protein in breast cancer cells may be due to a defect in the cellular machinery involved in the NLS receptor-mediated pathway of nuclear import.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32863-32868
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number51
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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