Core histones and linker histones are imported into the nucleus by different pathways

Eur J Cell Biol. 2001 Nov;80(11):669-77. doi: 10.1078/0171-9335-00208.


Histones are the major structural proteins in eukaryotic chromosomes. This group of small very basic proteins consists of the H1 linker histones and the core histones H2A, H2B, H3 and H4. Despite their small size, the nuclear import of histones occurs by an active transport mechanism and not simply by diffusion. Histones contain several nuclear localisation signals (NLS) that can be subdivided into two different types of signal structures. We have previously shown that H1 histones are transported by a heterodimeric import receptor complex consisting of importin beta and importin 7, and we now describe the receptors required for the import of the core histones. Competition experiments using the in vitro transport assay indicate that the import pathway of the core histones differs from that of the linker histones and of nuclear proteins with classical NLS. In vitro binding assays show that each of the import receptors importin beta, importin 5, importin 7 and transportin, has the capacity to bind to any of the four core histones. Reconstitution experiments with recombinant factors indicate that each of these factors can independently serve as an import receptor for each of the core histones.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / physiology*
  • HeLa Cells
  • Histones / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Karyopherins / metabolism
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding / physiology
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • alpha Karyopherins / metabolism
  • beta Karyopherins / metabolism


  • Histones
  • KPNA1 protein, human
  • Karyopherins
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • alpha Karyopherins
  • beta Karyopherins