The NPK1 mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase contains a functional nuclear localization signal at the binding site for the NACK1 kinesin-like protein


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The tobacco mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase kinase NPK1 localizes to the equatorial region of phragmoplasts by interacting with kinesin-like protein NACK1. This leads to activation of NPK1 kinase at late M phase, which is necessary for cell plate formation. Until now, its localization during interphase has not been reported. We investigated the subcellular localization of NPK1 in tobacco-cultured BY-2 cells at interphase using indirect immunofluorescence microscopy and fusion to green fluorescent protein (GFP). Fluorescence of anti-NPK1 antibodies and GFP-fused NPK1 were detected only in the nuclei of BY-2 cells at interphase. Examination of the amino acid sequence of NPK1 showed that at the carboxyl-terminal region in the regulatory domain, which contains the binding site of NACK1, NPK1 contained a cluster of basic amino acids that resemble a bipartite nuclear localization signal (NLS). Amino acid substitution mutations in the critical residues in putative NLS caused a marked reduction in nuclear localization of NPK1 in BY-2 cells, indicating that this sequence is functional in tobacco BY-2 cells. We also found that the 64-amino acid sequence at the carboxyl terminus that contains NLS sequence is essential for interaction with NACK1, and that mutations in the NLS sequence prevented NPK1 from interacting with NACK1. Thus, the amino acid sequence at the carboxyl-terminal region of NPK1 has dual functions for nuclear localization during interphase and binding NACK1 in M phase.