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Cellular & Molecular Biology Letters

Open Access

Identification of a non-canonical nuclear localization signal (NLS) in BRCA1 that could mediate nuclear localization of splice variants lacking the classical NLS

  • Aruna Korlimarla188Email author,
  • Lekhana Bhandary188,
  • Jyothi S. Prabhu188,
  • Hema Shankar188,
  • Hari Sankaranarayanan188,
  • Pravin Kumar288,
  • Jose Remacle188,
  • Dipa Natarajan288 and
  • T. S. Sridhar188
Cellular & Molecular Biology LettersAn International Journal201318:88

Received: 11 December 2012

Accepted: 18 April 2013

Published: 15 May 2013


The breast cancer type 1 susceptibility gene (BRCA1) is a tumor suppressor gene, mutations or loss of which lead to genomic instability and breast cancer. BRCA1 protein is part of a large multi-protein complex involved in a variety of DNA repair and transcription regulatory functions. At least four splice variants have been described and these differ in their function and tissue and spatio-temporal expression patterns. Structural analysis has revealed the presence of two nuclear localization signals (NLS) located in exon 11 of BRCA1. Interestingly, a splice variant of the protein that lacks both of the known NLS still manages to gain entry to the nucleus. While there is experimental proof for the translocation of these proteins by binding to other established nuclear proteins, we examined the possibility of a hitherto unidentified NLS in this particular variant. In this paper, we present evidence for the existence of a previously unreported non-canonical NLS contained within the first 39 amino acids of exon 11. A fusion protein with this 39mer and a reporter green fluorescent protein translocated into the nucleus when it was expressed in breast epithelial cells. We demonstrate the presence of a hitherto unreported noncanonical NLS in exon 11a of BRCA1. This NLS might aid proteins that were encoded by splice variants and lack the canonical NLS to localize to the nucleus.

Key words

Breast cancerBRCA1Splice variantsNuclear localizationImportin alphaGreen fluorescent protein