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The nuclear lamina proteins, prelamin A, lamin B, and a 70-kD lamina- associated protein, are posttranslationally modified by a metabolite derived from mevalonate. This modification can be inhibited by treatment with (3-R,S)-3-fluoromevalonate, demonstrating that it is isoprenoid in nature. We have examined the association between isoprenoid metabolism and processing of the lamin A precursor in human and hamster cells. Inhibition of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl coenzyme A reductase by mevinolin (lovastatin) specifically depletes endogenous isoprenoid pools and inhibits the conversion of prelamin A to lamin A. Prelamin A processing is also blocked by mevalonate starvation of Mev- 1, a CHO cell line auxotrophic for mevalonate. Moreover, inhibition of prelamin A processing by mevinolin treatment is rapidly reversed by the addition of exogenous mevalonate. Processing of prelamin A is, therefore, dependent on isoprenoid metabolism. Analysis of the conversion of prelamin A to lamin A by two independent methods, immunoprecipitation and two-dimensional nonequilibrium pH gel electrophoresis, demonstrates that a precursor-product relationship exists between prelamin A and lamin A. Analysis of R,S-[5- 3H(N)]mevalonate-labeled cells shows that the rate of turnover of the isoprenoid group from prelamin A is comparable to the rate of conversion of prelamin A to lamin A. These results suggest that during the proteolytic maturation of prelamin A, the isoprenylated moiety is lost. A significant difference between prelamin A processing, and that of p21ras and the B-type lamins that undergo isoprenylation-dependent proteolytic maturation, is that the mature form of lamin A is no longer isoprenylated.