Nup116p is a member of a family of five yeast nuclear pore complex (NPC) proteins that share an amino terminal region of repetitive tetrapeptide "GLFG" motifs. Previous experiments characterized the unique morphological perturbations that occur in a nup116 null mutant: temperature-sensitive formation of nuclear envelope seals over the cytoplasmic face of the NPC (Wente, S. R., and G. Blobel. 1993. J. Cell Biol. 123:275-284). Three approaches have been taken to dissect the structural basis for Nup116p's role in NPC function. First, deletion mutagenesis analysis of NUP116 revealed that the GLFG region was required for NPC function. This was not true for the other four yeast GLFG family members (Nup49p, Nup57p, Nup100p, and Nup145p). Moreover, deletion of either half of Nup116p's GLFG repeats or replacement of Nup116p's GLFG region with either Nup100p's GLFG region or Nsp1p's FXFG repetitive region abolishes the function of Nup116p. At a semipermissive growth temperature, the cells lacking Nup116p's GLFG region displayed a diminished capacity for nuclear import. Second, overexpression of Nup116p's GLFG region severely inhibited cell growth, rapidly blocked polyadenylated-RNA export, and fragmented the nucleolus. Although it inhibited nuclear export, the overexpressed GLFG region appeared predominantly localized in the cytoplasm and NPC/nuclear envelope structure was not perturbed in thin section electron micrographs. Finally, using biochemical and two-hybrid analysis, an interaction was characterized between Nup116p's GLFG region and Kap95p, an essential yeast homologue of the vertebrate nuclear import factor p97/Imp90/karopherin beta. These data show that Nup116p's GLFG region has an essential role in mediating nuclear transport.