Elevated levels of nuclear Y-box binding protein 1 (YB-1) are linked to poor prognosis in cancer. It has been proposed that entry into the nucleus requires specific proteasomal cleavage. However, evidence for cleavage is contradictory and high YB-1 levels are prognostic regardless of cellular location. Here, using confocal microscopy and mass spectrometry, we find no evidence of specific proteolytic cleavage. Doxorubicin treatment, and the resultant G2 arrest, leads to a significant increase in the number of cells where YB-1 is not found in the cytoplasm, suggesting that its cellular localisation is variable during the cell cycle. Live cell imaging reveals that the location of YB1 is linked to progression through the cell cycle. Primarily perinuclear during G1 and S phases, YB-1 enters the nucleus as cells transition through late G2/M and exits at the completion of mitosis. Atomistic modelling and molecular dynamics simulations show that dephosphorylation of YB1 at serine residues 102, 165 and 176 increases the accessibility of the nuclear localisation signal (NLS). We propose that this conformational change facilitates nuclear entry during late G2/M. Thus, the phosphorylation status of YB1 determines its cellular location.
Keywords: YB-1; atomistic modelling; cell cycle; nuclear translocation; phosphorylation.