Numerous carrier proteins intervene in protein transport from the cytoplasm to the nucleus in eukaryotic cells. One of those is importin α, with several human isoforms; among them, importin α3 (Impα3) features a particularly high flexibility. The protein NUPR1L is an intrinsically disordered protein (IDP), evolved as a paralogue of nuclear protein 1 (NUPR1), which is involved in chromatin remodeling and DNA repair. It is predicted that NUPR1L has a nuclear localization sequence (NLS) from residues Arg51 to Gln74, in order to allow for nuclear translocation. We studied in this work the ability of intact NUPR1L to bind Impα3 and its depleted species, ∆Impα3, without the importin binding domain (IBB), using fluorescence, isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC), circular dichroism (CD), nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), and molecular docking techniques. Furthermore, the binding of the peptide matching the isolated NLS region of NUPR1L (NLS-NUPR1L) was also studied using the same methods. Our results show that NUPR1L was bound to Imp α3 with a low micromolar affinity (~5 μM). Furthermore, a similar affinity value was observed for the binding of NLS-NUPR1L. These findings indicate that the NLS region, which was unfolded in isolation in solution, was essentially responsible for the binding of NUPR1L to both importin species. This result was also confirmed by our in silico modeling. The binding reaction of NLS-NUPR1L to ∆Impα3 showed a larger affinity (i.e., lower dissociation constant) compared with that of Impα3, confirming that the IBB could act as an auto-inhibition region of Impα3. Taken together, our findings pinpoint the theoretical predictions of the NLS region in NUPR1L and, more importantly, suggest that this IDP relies on an importin for its nuclear translocation.
Chemistry and Pharmacology