Active nuclear import of protein is controlled by nuclear localization signals (NLSs), but nuclear export is not understood well. Nuclear trafficking of the catalytic (C) subunit of cAMP-dependent protein kinase (cAPK) is critical for regulation of gene expression. The heat-stable inhibitor (PKl) of cAPK contains a nuclear export signal (NES) that triggers rapid, active net extrusion of the C-PKl complex from the nucleus. This NES (residues 35-49), fused or conjugated to heterologous proteins, was sufficient for rapid nuclear export. Hydrophobic residues were critical. The NES is a slightly weaker signal than the SV40 NLS. A sequence containing only residues 37-46, LALKLAGLDI, is also sufficient for nuclear export. This is an example of a protein-based NES having no obvious association with RNA. A similar sequence, LQLPPLERLTL, from Rev, an RNA-binding protein of HIV-1, also is an NES.