Kinetic analysis of Smad nucleocytoplasmic shuttling reveals a mechanism for transforming growth factor beta-dependent nuclear accumulation of Smads

Bernhard Schmierer, Caroline S Hill
Molecular and Cellular Biology 2005, 25 (22): 9845-58
Upon transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) stimulation, Smads accumulate in the nucleus, where they regulate gene expression. Using fluorescence perturbation experiments on Smad2 and Smad4 fused to either enhanced green fluorescent protein or photoactivatable green fluorescent protein, we have studied the kinetics of Smad nucleocytoplasmic shuttling in a quantitative manner in vivo. We have obtained rate constants for import and export of Smad2 and show that the cytoplasmic localization of Smad2 in uninduced cells reflects its nuclear export being more rapid than import. We find that TGF-beta-induced nuclear accumulation of Smad2 is caused by a pronounced drop in the export rate of Smad2 from the nucleus, which is associated with a strong decrease in nuclear mobility of Smad2 and Smad4. TGF-beta-induced nuclear accumulation involves neither a release from cytoplasmic retention nor an increase in Smad2 import rate. Hence, TGF-beta-dependent nuclear accumulation of Smad2 is caused exclusively by selective nuclear trapping of phosphorylated, complexed Smad2. The proposed mechanism reconciles signal-dependent nuclear accumulation of Smad2 with its continuous nucleocytoplasmic cycling properties.

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