Importin α: A multipurpose nuclear-transport receptor

David S. Goldfarb, Anita H. Corbett, D. Adam Mason, Michelle T. Harreman, Stephen A. Adam

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

503 Scopus citations


The importin α/β heterodimer targets hundreds of proteins to the nuclear-pore complex (NPC) and facilitates their translocation across the nuclear envelope. Importin α binds to classical nuclear localization signal (cNLS)-containing proteins and links them to importin β, the karyopherin that ferries the ternary complex through the NPC. A second karyopherin, the exportin CAS, recycles importin α back to the cytoplasm. In this article, we discuss control mechanisms that importin α exerts over the assembly and disassembly of the ternary complex and we describe how new groups of importin α genes arose during the evolution of metazoan animals to function in development and differentiation. We also describe activities of importin α that seem to be distinct from its housekeeping functions in nuclear transport.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-514
Number of pages10
JournalTrends in Cell Biology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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