It has been reported that the ataxin-3 protein containing a polyglutamine sequence in the pathological range (61-84Q) is localized within the nucleus of neuronal cells, whereas ataxin-3 with a normal repeat length (12-37Q) is predominantly a cytoplasmic protein. In this study, the subcellular localization of the full-length ataxin-3 protein with a glutamine sequence in the normal range (Q3KQ22) was analysed in two mammalian cell lines. Using two affinity-purified polyclonal antibodies raised against the N- or C-terminal portion of ataxin-3, the protein was detected predominantly, but not exclusively, in the nucleus of COS-7 as well as neuroblastoma cells by immunofluorescence and confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM). The distribution of the protein in these cellular compartments was confirmed by biochemical subcellular fractionations. Furthermore, CLSM revealed that the ataxin-3 protein present in the nucleus of neuroblastoma cells is associated with the inner nuclear matrix. Our results taken together with the finding of a nuclear localization signal in ataxin-3 indicate that the ataxin-3 protein per se translocates to the nucleus and that an expanded glutamine repeat is not essential for this transport.
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