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NTF2 FG-repeat binding

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The nucleus is responsible for storing the genome of eukaryotic cells, isolating it from the cellular cytoplasm. Partitioning the genetic material is very important in protecting it from cellular processes or foreign molecules. However, the nucleus also needs to provide access for the rest of the cell to the information stored in the genome. Numerous nuclear pores in the nuclear envelope offer communication pathways between the nucleoplasm and cytoplasm. The pathways are restricted to so-called transport receptors, proteins that taxi molecules into and out of the nucleus. If a molecule wishes to enter or leave the nucleus, it associates with a transport receptor. The complex passes through the pore and then dissociates. The question is why transport receptors can pass the nuclear pores while other proteins cannot. The answer lies in the role of FG-repeat proteins lining the pores and filling much of their free volume. These proteins are disordered peptides, consisting of repeating phenylalanine-glycine (FG) residues separated by a sequence of hydrophilic linker residues. Only proteins that interact favorably with the FG-repeat regions can pass through, while other proteins are excluded. A recent report used molecular dynamics via NAMD to examine the way in which the transport factor NTF2 interacts with the FG-repeats. The study described binding spots for FG-repeat peptides on the surface of NTF2, confirming known binding spots discovered previously via experimental means, and suggesting the existence of further binding spots. The new binding spots may play a role in steering NTF2, upon import or export, along a particular path through the nuclear pore. See also a previous highlight from January 2006, "Gateway to the Nucleus", as well as our webpage on the nuclear pore complex.