GTPase activating proteins (GAPs) for Ran, a Ras-related GTPase participating in nucleocytoplasmic transport, have been identified in different species ranging from yeast to man. All RanGAPs are characterized by a conserved domain consisting of eight leucine-rich repeats (LRRs) interrupted at two positions by so-called separating regions, the latter being unique for RanGAPs within the family of LRR proteins. The cytosolic RanGAP activity is essential for the Ran GTPase cycle which in turn provides directionality in nucleocytoplasmic transport, but the structural basis for the interaction between Ran and its GAP has not been elucidated. In order to gain a better understanding of this interaction we generated a number of mutant RanGAPs carrying amino acid substitutions in the LRR domain and analysed their complex formation with Ran as well as their ability to stimulate the intrinsic GTPase activity of the G protein. We show that conserved charged residues present in the separating regions of the LRR domain are indispensable for efficient Ran binding and GAP activity. These separating regions contain three conserved arginines which could possibly serve as catalytic residues similar to the arginine fingers identified in GAPs for other small GTPases. However, mutations in two of these arginines do not affect the GAP activity and replacement of the third conserved arginine (Arg91 in human RanGAP) severely interferes not only with GAP activity but also with Ran binding. This indicates that RanGAP-stimulated GTP hydrolysis on Ran does not involve a catalytic arginine residue but requires certain charged residues of the LRR domain of the GAP for mediating the protein-protein interaction.

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