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This article is the author’s final published version in Nature Communications, Volume 13, Issue 1, March 2022, Article number 1207.

The published version is available at Copyright © Florio et al.


Nuclear translocation of the p50/p65 heterodimer is essential for NF-κB signaling. In unstimulated cells, p50/p65 is retained by the inhibitor IκBα in the cytoplasm that masks the p65-nuclear localization sequence (NLS). Upon activation, p50/p65 is translocated into the nucleus by the adapter importin α3 and the receptor importin β. Here, we describe a bipartite NLS in p50/p65, analogous to nucleoplasmin NLS but exposed in trans. Importin α3 accommodates the p50- and p65-NLSs at the major and minor NLS-binding pockets, respectively. The p50-NLS is the predominant binding determinant, while the p65-NLS induces a conformational change in the Armadillo 7 of importin α3 that stabilizes a helical conformation of the p65-NLS. Neither conformational change was observed for importin α1, which makes fewer bonds with the p50/p65 NLSs, explaining the preference for α3. We propose that importin α3 discriminates between the transcriptionally active p50/p65 heterodimer and p50/p50 and p65/65 homodimers, ensuring fidelity in NF-κB signaling.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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