The human genome encodes seven isoforms of importin α which are grouped into three subfamilies known as α1, α2 and α3. All isoforms share a fundamentally conserved architecture that consists of an N-terminal, autoinhibitory, importin-β-binding (IBB) domain and a C-terminal Arm (Armadillo)-core that associates with nuclear localization signal (NLS) cargoes. Despite striking similarity in amino acid sequence and 3D structure, importin-α isoforms display remarkable substrate specificity in vivo. In the present review, we look at key differences among importin-α isoforms and provide a comprehensive inventory of known viral and cellular cargoes that have been shown to associate preferentially with specific isoforms. We illustrate how the diversification of the adaptor importin α into seven isoforms expands the dynamic range and regulatory control of nucleocytoplasmic transport, offering unexpected opportunities for pharmacological intervention. The emerging view of importin α is that of a key signalling molecule, with isoforms that confer preferential nuclear entry and spatiotemporal specificity on viral and cellular cargoes directly linked to human diseases.
Recommended CitationPumroy, Ruth A. and Cingolani, Gino, "Diversification of importin-α isoforms in cellular trafficking and disease states." (2015). Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Faculty Papers. Paper 107.