Importin beta family transport receptors shuttle between the nucleus and the cytoplasm and mediate transport of macromolecules through nuclear pore complexes (NPCs). The interactions between these receptors and their cargoes are regulated by binding RanGTP; all receptors probably exit the nucleus complexed with RanGTP, and so should deplete RanGTP continuously from the nucleus. We describe here the development of an in vitro system to study how nuclear Ran is replenished. Nuclear import of Ran does not rely on simple diffusion as Ran's small size would permit, but instead is stimulated by soluble transport factors. This facilitated import is specific for cytoplasmic RanGDP and employs nuclear transport factor 2 (NTF2) as the actual carrier. NTF2 binds RanGDP initially to NPCs and probably also mediates translocation of the NTF2-RanGDP complex to the nuclear side of the NPCs. A direct NTF2-RanGDP interaction is crucial for this process, since point mutations that disturb the RanGDP-NTF2 interaction also interfere with Ran import. The subsequent nuclear accumulation of Ran also requires GTP, but not GTP hydrolysis. The release of Ran from NTF2 into the nucleus, and thus the directionality of Ran import, probably involves nucleotide exchange to generate RanGTP, for which NTF2 has no detectable affinity, followed by binding of the RanGTP to an importin beta family transport receptor.