Proteins that bind nuclear localization signals on proteins destined for the nucleus and that, in conjunction with ran and pp15 are involved in transport. Importins a and b form a heterodimer in the cytoplasm that corresponds to the "NLS-receptor": both have multiple repeated arm-domains. Importin a binds importin b through a NLS- like region on importin b ; importin b binds ran-GTP and also several nucleoporins. Since importins a and b recycle from the nucleus to the cytoplasm at different rates it seems that there is a dissociation step in the transport cycle.

Dictionary of molecular biology. 2004.

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