The importin (α) family of transport factors mediates the nuclear import of classical nuclear localization signal-containing proteins. In order to understand how multiple importin (α) proteins are regulated both in individual cells and in a whole organism, the three importin (α) (ima) genes of Caenorhabditis elegans have been identified and studied. All three IMAs are expressed in the germline; however, only IMA-3 is expressed in the soma. RNA interference (RNAi) experiments demonstrate that IMA-3 is required for the progression of meiotic prophase I during oocyte development. Loss of IMA-3 expression leads also to a disruption of the nuclear pore complex accompanied by the mis-localization of P granules. A range of defects occurring in ima-3(RNAi) F(1) progeny further supports a role for IMA-3 during embryonic and larval development. The functional association of IMA-3 with distinct cellular events, its expression pattern and intracellular localization indicate that regulation of the nuclear transport machinery is involved in the control of developmental pathways.

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