APOBEC3B and AID have similar nuclear import mechanisms

J Mol Biol. 2012 Jun 22;419(5):301-14. doi: 10.1016/j.jmb.2012.03.011. Epub 2012 Mar 23.


Members of the APOBEC (apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme, catalytic polypeptide-like) protein family catalyze DNA cytosine deamination and underpin a variety of immune defenses. For instance, several family members, including APOBEC3B (A3B), elicit strong retrotransposon and retrovirus restriction activities. However, unlike the other proteins, A3B is the only family member with steady-state nuclear localization. Here, we show that A3B nuclear import is an active process requiring at least one amino acid (Val54) within an N-terminal motif analogous to the nuclear localization determinant of the antibody gene diversification enzyme AID (activation-induced cytosine deaminase). Mechanistic conservation with AID is further suggested by A3B's capacity to interact with the same subset of importin proteins. Despite these mechanistic similarities, enforced A3B expression cannot substitute for AID-dependent antibody gene diversification by class switch recombination. Regulatory differences between A3B and AID are also visible during cell cycle progression. Our studies suggest that the present-day A3B enzyme retained the nuclear import mechanism of an ancestral AID protein during the expansion of the APOBEC3 locus in primates. Our studies also highlight the likelihood that, after nuclear import, specialized mechanisms exist to guide these enzymes to their respective physiological substrates and prevent gratuitous chromosomal DNA damage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Active Transport, Cell Nucleus
  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Animals
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism*
  • Cytidine Deaminase / chemistry
  • Cytidine Deaminase / genetics
  • Cytidine Deaminase / metabolism*
  • Evolution, Molecular
  • Genetic Loci
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • Primates / genetics
  • Primates / metabolism


  • Minor Histocompatibility Antigens
  • AICDA (activation-induced cytidine deaminase)
  • APOBEC3B protein, human
  • Cytidine Deaminase