Global enhancement of nuclear localization-dependent nuclear transport in transformed cells

FASEB J. 2012 Mar;26(3):1181-93. doi: 10.1096/fj.11-191585. Epub 2011 Dec 12.


Fundamental to eukaryotic cell function, nucleocytoplasmic transport can be regulated at many levels, including through modulation of the importin/exportin (Imp/Exp) nuclear transport machinery itself. Although Imps/Exps are overexpressed in a number of transformed cell lines and patient tumor tissues, the efficiency of nucleocytoplasmic transport in transformed cell types compared with nontransformed cells has not been investigated. Here we use quantitative live cell imaging of 3 isogenic nontransformed/transformed cell pairs to show that nuclear accumulation of nuclear localization signal (NLS)-containing proteins, but not their NLS-mutated derivatives, is increased up to 7-fold in MCF10CA1h human epithelial breast carcinoma cells and in simian virus 40 (SV40)-transformed fibroblasts of human and monkey origin, compared with their nontransformed counterparts. The basis for this appears to be a significantly faster rate of nuclear import in transformed cell types, as revealed by analysis using fluorescence recovery after photobleaching for the human MCF10A/MCF10CA1h cell pair. Nuclear accumulation of NLS/nuclear export signal-containing (shuttling) proteins was also enhanced in transformed cell types, experiments using the nuclear export inhibitor leptomycin B demonstrating that efficient Exp-1-mediated nuclear export was not impaired in transformed compared with nontransformed cells. Enhanced nuclear import and export efficiencies were found to correlate with 2- to 4-fold higher expression of specific Imps/Exps in transformed cells, as indicated by quantitative Western blot analysis, with ectopic expression of Imps able to enhance NLS nuclear accumulation levels up to 5-fold in nontransformed MCF10A cells. The findings indicate that transformed cells possess altered nuclear transport properties, most likely due to the overexpression of Imps/Exps. The findings have important implications for the development of tumor-specific drug nanocarriers in anticancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus / drug effects
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • COS Cells
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Line, Transformed
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism*
  • Fluorescence Recovery After Photobleaching
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Karyopherins / genetics
  • Karyopherins / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Localization Signals / genetics*
  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport Proteins / genetics*
  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport Proteins / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Transfection


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Karyopherins
  • Nuclear Localization Signals
  • Nucleocytoplasmic Transport Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • leptomycin B