ERK2 enters the nucleus by a carrier-independent mechanism

Angelique W. Whitehurst, Julie L. Wilsbacher, Youngjai You, Kate Luby-Phelps, Mary Shannon Moore, Melanie H. Cobb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

128 Scopus citations


In stimulated cells, the mitogen-activated protein kinase ERK2 (extracellular signal-regulated kinase 2) concentrates in the nucleus. Evidence exists for CRM1-dependent, mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase-mediated nuclear export of ERK2, but its mechanism of nuclear entry is not understood. To determine requirements for nuclear transport, we tagged ERK2 with green fluorescent protein (GFP) and examined its nuclear uptake by using an in vitro import assay. GFP-ERK2 entered the nucleus in a saturable, time- and temperature-dependent manner. Entry of GFP-ERK2, like that of ERK2, required neither energy nor transport factors and was visible within minutes. The nuclear uptake of GFP-ERK2 was inhibited by wheat germ agglutinin, which blocks nuclear entry by binding to carbohydrate moieties on nuclear pore complex proteins. The nuclear uptake of GFP-ERK2 also was reduced by excess amounts of recombinant transport factors. These findings suggest that ERK2 competes with transport factors for binding to nucleoporins, which mediate the entry and exit of transport factors. In support of this hypothesis, we showed that ERK2 binds directly to a purified nucleoporin. Our data suggest that GFP-ERK2 enters the nucleus by a saturable, facilitated mechanism, distinct from a carrier- and energy-dependent import mechanism and involves a direct interaction with nuclear pore complex proteins.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7496-7501
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number11
StatePublished - May 28 2002


  • FXFG motif
  • Import
  • Mitogen-activated protein kinase
  • Nucleoporins

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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