To identify genes involved in the export of messenger RNA from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, we used an in situ hybridization assay to screen temperature-sensitive strains of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This identified those which accumulated poly(A)+ RNA in their nuclei when shifted to the non-permissive temperature of 37 degrees C. We describe here the properties of yeast strains carrying mutations in the RAT2 gene (RAT - ribonucleic acid trafficking) and the cloning of the RAT2 gene. Only a low percentage of cells carrying the rat2-1 allele showed nuclear accumulation of poly(A)+ RNA when cultured at 15 degrees or 23 degrees C, but within 4 h of a shift to the nonpermissive temperature of 37 degrees C, poly(A)+ RNA accumulated within the nuclei of approximately 80% of cells. No defect was seen in the nuclear import of a reporter protein bearing a nuclear localization signal. Nuclear pore complexes (NPCs) are distributed relatively evenly around the nuclear envelope in wild-type cells. In cells carrying either the rat2-1 or rat2-2 allele, NPCs were clustered together into one or a few regions of the nuclear envelope. This clustering was a constitutive property of mutant cells. NPCs remained clustered in crude nuclei isolated from mutant cells, indicating that these clusters are not able to redistribute around the nuclear envelope when nuclei are separated from cytoplasmic components. Electron microscopy revealed that these clusters were frequently found in a protuberance of the nuclear envelope and were often located close to the spindle pole body. The RAT2 gene encodes a 120-kD protein without similarity to other known proteins. It was essential for growth only at 37 degrees C, but the growth defect at high temperature could be suppressed by growth of mutant cells in the presence of high osmolarity media containing 1.0 M sorbitol or 0.9 M NaCl. The phenotypes seen in cells carrying a disruption of the RAT2 gene were very similar to those seen with the rat2-1 and rat2-2 alleles. Epitope tagging was used to show that Rat2p is located at the nuclear periphery and co-localizes with yeast NPC proteins recognized by the RL1 monoclonal antibody. The rat2-1 allele was synthetically lethal with both the rat3-1/nup133-1 and rat7- 1/nup159-1 alleles. These results indicate that the product of this gene is a nucleoporin which we refer to as Rat2p/Nup120p.