Correct targeting of nuclear proteins is mediated by nuclear localization sequences (NLS) which permit specific binding to the nucleus and subsequent translocation across the nuclear envelope via the nuclear pore complex. It is proposed that nuclear import is facilitated by NLS-receptors which reside in the cytoplasm and at the nuclear pore. These NLS-receptors could facilitate an early step of nuclear protein import, i.e. targeting and binding of nuclear proteins at the nuclear pore. We have generated anti-idiotype antibodies against the SV40 T-antigen nuclear localization sequence that allowed us to study NLS-binding proteins in a variety of different organisms. Proteins of similar size are recognized by these antibodies in yeast, Drosophila, rat and human cells. Cytological analysis indicates that the NLS-binding proteins reside in part at nuclear pores. One of the proteins recognized by anti-idiotype antibodies is identical to a previously identified NLS-binding protein. Using isolated yeast nuclei we demonstrate that the anti-idiotype antibodies compete for binding of nuclear proteins in vitro. We show that the yeast mutant npl3, which is defective in nuclear protein localization, has an altered distribution of antigens recognized by these anti-idiotype antibodies, at the semi-permissive temperature. Our results suggest that a set of proteins common to various eukaryotes recognizes nuclear localization sequences.

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