The nuclear and nucleolar targeting properties of human ribosomal protein S25 (RPS25) were analysed by the expression of epitope-tagged RPS25 cDNAs in Cos-1 cells. The tagged RPS25 was localized to the cell nucleus, with a strong predominance in the nucleolus. At the amino terminus of RPS25, two stretches of highly basic residues juxtapose. This configuration shares common features with the nucleolar targeting signals (NOS) of lentiviral RNA-binding transactivators, including human immunodeficiency viruses' (HIV) Rev proteins. Deletion and site-directed mutational analyses demonstrated that the first NOS-like stretch is dispensable for both nuclear and nucleolar localization of RPS25, and that the nuclear targeting signal is located within the second NOS-like stretch. It has also been suggested that a set of continuous basic residues and the total number of basic residues should be required for nucleolar targeting. Signal-mediated nuclear/nucleolar targeting was further characterized by the construction and expression of a variety of chimeric constructs, utilizing three different backbones with RPS25 cDNA fragments. Immunofluorescence analyses demonstrated a 17 residue peptide of RPS25 as a potential nuclear/nucleolar targeting signal. The identified peptide signal may belong to a putative subclass of NOS, characterized by compact structure, together with lentiviral RNA-binding transactivators.