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0 Q&A 8269 Views Sep 5, 2018
Many proteins appear exclusively nuclear at steady-state but in fact shuttle continuously back and forth between the nucleus and the cytoplasm. For example, nuclear RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) often accompany mRNAs to the cytoplasm, where they can regulate subcellular localization, translation and/or decay of their cargos before shuttling back to the nucleus. Nucleocytoplasmic shuttling must be tightly regulated, as mislocalization of several RBPs with prion-like domains such as FUS and TDP-43 causes the cytoplasmic accumulation of solid pathological aggregates that have been implicated in neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Traditionally, interspecies heterokaryon assays have been used to determine whether a nuclear protein of interest shuttles; those assays are based on the fusion between donor and recipient cells from two different species (e.g., mouse and human), which can be distinguished based on different chromatin staining patterns, and detecting the appearance of the protein in the recipient nucleus. However, identification of heterokaryons requires experience and is prone to error, which makes it difficult to obtain high-quality data for quantitative studies. Moreover, transient overexpression of fluorescently tagged RBPs in donor cells often leads to their aberrant subcellular localization. Here, we present a quantitative assay where stable donor cell lines expressing near-physiological levels of eGFP-tagged RBPs are fused to recipient cells expressing the membrane marker CAAX-mCherry, allowing to readily identify and image a large number of high-confidence heterokaryons. Our assay can be used to measure the shuttling activity of any nuclear protein of interest in different cell types, under different cellular conditions or between mutant proteins.



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