Ca(2+)/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase type IV (CaMKIV) plays an essential role in the transcriptional activation of cAMP response element-binding protein-mediated signaling pathways. Although CaMKIV is localized predominantly in the nucleus, the molecular mechanism of the nuclear import of CaMKIV has not been elucidated. We report here that importin alpha is able to carry CaMKIV into the nucleus without the need for importin beta or any other soluble proteins in digitonin-permeabilized cells. An importin beta binding-deficient mutant (DeltaIBB) of importin alpha also carried CaMKIV into the nucleus, which strongly suggests that CaMKIV is transported in an importin beta-independent manner. While CaMKIV directly interacted with the C-terminal region of importin alpha, the CaMKIV/importin alpha complex did not form a ternary complex with importin beta, which explains the nonrequirement of importin beta for the nuclear transport of CaMKIV. The cytoplasmic microinjection of importin alpha-DeltaIBB enhanced the rate of nuclear translocation of CaMKIV in vivo. This is the first report to demonstrate definitely that mammalian importin alpha solely carries a cargo protein into the nucleus without utilizing the classical importin beta-dependent transport system.
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