Structure of the Nuclear Pore

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Abstract

The nucleus is a defining hallmark in cells of all the higher organisms: yeast, animals, and plants. As the repository of the genome, it both encloses the chromatin and regulates its accessibility. It is also the site of nucleic acid synthesis, including replica-tion of DNA, transcription and editing of messenger RNA, synthesis of ribosomal RNAs, and assembly of ribosomal subunits. By contrast, the cytoplasm is the site of protein synthesis, where functional ribosomes translate mRNA into polypeptides. The nuclear envelope defines the border between these two distina biochemical worlds. The nuclear pores (or nuclear pore complexes, NPCs) serve as guardians of this border, acting as the gateway for molecular ex-change between the two major cellular compartments. They are deeply integrated to the physi-ological function of every cellular pathway involving communication between enzymatic, sig-naling, or regtdatory activities on one hand, and gene expression on the other. The nuclear pore complex is also a fascinating molecular machine, facilitating the passage of specific macromol-ecules in one direction while ferrying others in the opposite sense.