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1.  Mechanism of ubiquitin ligation and lysine prioritization by a HECT E3 
eLife  2013;2:e00828.
Ubiquitination by HECT E3 enzymes regulates myriad processes, including tumor suppression, transcription, protein trafficking, and degradation. HECT E3s use a two-step mechanism to ligate ubiquitin to target proteins. The first step is guided by interactions between the catalytic HECT domain and the E2∼ubiquitin intermediate, which promote formation of a transient, thioester-bonded HECT∼ubiquitin intermediate. Here we report that the second step of ligation is mediated by a distinct catalytic architecture established by both the HECT E3 and its covalently linked ubiquitin. The structure of a chemically trapped proxy for an E3∼ubiquitin-substrate intermediate reveals three-way interactions between ubiquitin and the bilobal HECT domain orienting the E3∼ubiquitin thioester bond for ligation, and restricting the location of the substrate-binding domain to prioritize target lysines for ubiquitination. The data allow visualization of an E2-to-E3-to-substrate ubiquitin transfer cascade, and show how HECT-specific ubiquitin interactions driving multiple reactions are repurposed by a major E3 conformational change to promote ligation.
eLife digest
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be covalently linked to other, ‘target’, proteins in a cell to influence their behavior. Ubiquitin can be linked to its targets either as single copies or as polyubiquitin chains in which several ubiquitin molecules are bound end-on-end to each other, with one end of the chain attached to the target protein. A multi-step cascade involving enzymes known as E1, E2, and E3 adds ubiquitin to its targets. These enzymes function in a manner like runners in a relay, with ubiquitin a baton that is passed from E1 to E2 to E3 to the target.
The E3 enzyme is a ligase that catalyzes the formation of a new chemical bond between a ubiquitin and its target. There are approximately 600 different E3 enzymes in human cells that regulate a wide variety of target proteins. A major class of E3 enzymes, called HECT E3s, attaches ubiquitin to its targets in a unique two-step mechanism: the E2 enzymes covalently link a ubiquitin to a HECT E3 to form a complex that subsequently transfers the ubiquitin to its target protein. The ubiquitin is typically added to a particular amino acid, lysine, on the target protein, but the details of how HECT E3s execute this transfer are not well understood. To address this issue, Kamadurai et al. investigate how Rsp5, a HECT E3 ligase in yeast, attaches ubiquitin to a target protein called Sna3.
All HECT E3s have a domain—the HECT domain—that catalyzes the transfer of ubiquitin to its target protein. This domain consists of two sub-structures: the C-lobe, which can receive ubiquitin from E2 and then itself become linked to ubiquitin, and the N-lobe. These lobes were previously thought to adopt various orientations relative to each other to deliver ubiquitin to sites on different target proteins (including to multiple lysines on a single target protein). Unexpectedly, Kamadurai et al. find that in order to transfer the ubiquitin to Sna3, Rsp5 adopts a discrete HECT domain architecture that creates an active site in which parts of the C-lobe and the N-lobe, which are normally separated, are brought together with a ubiquitin molecule. This architecture also provides a mechanism that dictates which substrate lysines can be ubiquitinated based on how accessible they are to this active site.
The same regions of Rsp5 transfer ubiquitin to targets other than Sna3, suggesting that a uniform mechanism—which Kamadurai et al. show is conserved in two related human HECT E3 ligases—might transfer ubiquitin to all its targets. These studies therefore represent a significant step toward understanding how a major class of E3 enzymes modulates the functions of their targets.
PMCID: PMC3738095  PMID: 23936628
ubiquitin; HECT; E3 ligase; E2 conjugating enzyme; NEDD4; Rsp5; S. cerevisiae
2.  The UBXN1 Protein Associates with Autoubiquitinated Forms of the BRCA1 Tumor Suppressor and Inhibits Its Enzymatic Function▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(11):2787-2798.
Although the BRCA1 tumor suppressor has been implicated in many cellular processes, the biochemical mechanisms by which it influences these diverse pathways are poorly understood. The only known enzymatic function of BRCA1 is the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity mediated by its highly conserved RING domain. In vivo, BRCA1 associates with the BARD1 polypeptide to form a heterodimeric BRCA1/BARD1 complex that catalyzes autoubiquitination of BRCA1 and trans ubiquitination of other protein substrates. In most cases, BRCA1-dependent ubiquitination generates polyubiquitin chains bearing an unconventional K6 linkage that does not appear to target proteins for proteasomal degradation. Since ubiquitin-dependent processes are usually mediated by cellular receptors with ubiquitin-binding motifs, we screened for proteins that specifically bind autoubiquitinated BRCA1. Here we report that the UBXN1 polypeptide, which contains a ubiquitin-associated (UBA) motif, recognizes autoubiquitinated BRCA1. This occurs through a bipartite interaction in which the UBA domain of UBXN1 binds K6-linked polyubiquitin chains conjugated to BRCA1 while the C-terminal sequences of UBXN1 bind the BRCA1/BARD1 heterodimer in a ubiquitin-independent fashion. Significantly, the E3 ligase activity of BRCA1/BARD1 is dramatically reduced in the presence of UBXN1, suggesting that UBXN1 regulates the enzymatic function of BRCA1 in a manner that is dependent on its ubiquitination status.
PMCID: PMC2876507  PMID: 20351172
3.  The ubiquitin E3 ligase activity of BRCA1 and its biological functions 
Cell Division  2008;3:1.
The basal-like breast cancer, a new category of breast cancer associated with poor prognosis and possibly unique chemosensitivity, is a current topic in the breast cancer field. Evidence from multiple sources strongly indicate that impairment of BRCA1 pathways is responsible for this phenotype, implying the importance of BRCA1 not only in familial breast cancers but also in sporadic cancers. BRCA1 acts as a hub protein that coordinates a diverse range of cellular pathways to maintain genomic stability. BRCA1 participates in multiple cellular supercomplexes to execute its tasks and, in most of the complexes, BRCA1 exists as a RING heterodimer with BARD1 to provide ubiquitin E3 ligase activity that is required for its tumor suppressor function. It was revealed recently that the BRCA1 RING finger is capable of catalyzing multiple types of ubiquitination depending upon the interacting E2, the ubiquitin carrier protein. BRCA1 may catalyze distinct ubiquitination on different substrates as the situation demands. On the other hand, in response to DNA double-strand breaks where BRCA1 plays its major role for homologous recombination repair, recent evidence showed that ubiquitination is a critical step to recruit BRCA1 to the damaged site through UIM (ubiquitin interacting motif) containing protein RAP80. Thus, ubiquitin and BRCA1 likely affect each other in many ways to perform cellular functions. Elucidation of this mechanism in relation to cell survival is now much anticipated because it could be a key to predict chemosensitivity of basal-like breast cancer.
PMCID: PMC2254412  PMID: 18179693
4.  Selective Recruitment of an E2∼Ubiquitin Complex by an E3 Ubiquitin Ligase* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2012;287(21):17374-17385.
Background: Rbx1/ROC1 is an E3 ligase adaptor protein that functions with the E2 enzyme CDC34.
Results: NMR and biochemical data show that Rbx1/ROC1 binds CDC34∼ubiquitin 50-fold tighter than CDC34.
Conclusion: Rbx1/ROC1 selectively recruits E2∼ubiquitin and releases the E2 after ubiquitin transfer.
Significance: Direct evidence is shown for preferential recognition of an E2∼ubiquitin complex by an E3 ligase.
RING E3 ligases are proteins that must selectively recruit an E2-conjugating enzyme and facilitate ubiquitin transfer to a substrate. It is not clear how a RING E3 ligase differentiates a naked E2 enzyme from the E2∼ubiquitin-conjugated form or how this is altered upon ubiquitin transfer. RING-box protein 1 (Rbx1/ROC1) is a key protein found in the Skp1/Cullin-1/F-box (SCF) E3 ubiquitin ligase complex that functions with the E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme CDC34. The solution structure of Rbx1/ROC1 revealed a globular RING domain (residues 40–108) stabilized by three structural zinc ions (root mean square deviation 0.30 ± 0.04 Å) along with a disordered N terminus (residues 12–39). Titration data showed that Rbx1/ROC1 preferentially recruits CDC34 in its ubiquitin-conjugated form and favors this interaction by 50-fold compared with unconjugated CDC34. Furthermore, NMR and biochemical assays identified residues in helix α2 of Rbx1/ROC1 that are essential for binding and activating CDC34∼ubiquitin for ubiquitylation. Taken together, this work provides the first direct structural and biochemical evidence showing that polyubiquitylation by the RING E3 ligase Rbx1/ROC1 requires the preferential recruitment of an E2∼ubiquitin complex and subsequent release of the unconjugated E2 protein upon ubiquitin transfer to a substrate or ubiquitin chain.
PMCID: PMC3366790  PMID: 22433864
E3 Ubiquitin Ligase; Enzyme Mechanisms; Protein Complexes; Structural Biology; Ubiquitin Conjugating Enzyme (Ubc); Ubiquitination
5.  NleG Type 3 Effectors from Enterohaemorrhagic Escherichia coli Are U-Box E3 Ubiquitin Ligases 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(6):e1000960.
NleG homologues constitute the largest family of type 3 effectors delivered by pathogenic E. coli, with fourteen members in the enterohaemorrhagic (EHEC) O157:H7 strain alone. Identified recently as part of the non-LEE-encoded (Nle) effector set, this family remained uncharacterised and shared no sequence homology to other proteins including those of known function. The C-terminal domain of NleG2-3 (residues 90 to 191) is the most conserved region in NleG proteins and was solved by NMR. Structural analysis of this structure revealed the presence of a RING finger/U-box motif. Functional assays demonstrated that NleG2-3 as well as NleG5-1, NleG6-2 and NleG9′ family members exhibited a strong autoubiquitination activity in vitro; a characteristic usually expressed by eukaryotic ubiquitin E3 ligases. When screened for activity against a panel of 30 human E2 enzymes, the NleG2-3 and NleG5-1 homologues showed an identical profile with only UBE2E2, UBE2E3 and UBE2D2 enzymes supporting NleG activity. Fluorescence polarization analysis yielded a binding affinity constant of 56±2 µM for the UBE2D2/NleG5-1 interaction, a value comparable with previous studies on E2/E3 affinities. The UBE2D2 interaction interface on NleG2-3 defined by NMR chemical shift perturbation and mutagenesis was shown to be generally similar to that characterised for human RING finger ubiquitin ligases. The alanine substitutions of UBE2D2 residues Arg5 and Lys63, critical for activation of eukaryotic E3 ligases, also significantly decreased both NleG binding and autoubiquitination activity. These results demonstrate that bacteria-encoded NleG effectors are E3 ubiquitin ligases analogous to RING finger and U-box enzymes in eukaryotes.
Author Summary
Many bacterial pathogens utilize a multiprotein ‘‘injection needle’’ termed the type III secretion system to deliver a set of proteins called effectors into the host cell. These effectors then manipulate host signalling pathways to the advantage of the pathogen, often mimicking eukaryote-specific activities. We present a study of an uncharacterised family of effectors called NleG, secreted primarily by enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) O157:H7, a causative agent of human gastroenteritis. We solved the solution structure of a conserved C-terminal region of an NleG family member by NMR. Structural analysis demonstrated that the NleG structure is similar to the RING finger/U-box domain found primarily in eukaryotic ubiquitin ligases. The activity of these domains in eukaryotes is an essential part of the ubiquitination signalling system. Due to its central role in cell metabolism and the host immune response, the ubiquitination system has emerged as a primary target for bacterial effectors. Our biochemical analysis demonstrated that NleG proteins selectively interact with human E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzymes and exhibit in vitro activity typical of eukaryotic E3 ligases. Our data reveal that NleG effectors structurally and functionally mimic host U-box/RING E3 ubiquitin ligases. Future research will focus on determining targets of NleG ubiquitin ligase activity and the role in E. coli pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC2891834  PMID: 20585566
6.  Mechanisms of mono- and poly-ubiquitination: Ubiquitination specificity depends on compatibility between the E2 catalytic core and amino acid residues proximal to the lysine 
Cell Division  2010;5:19.
Ubiquitination involves the attachment of ubiquitin to lysine residues on substrate proteins or itself, which can result in protein monoubiquitination or polyubiquitination. Ubiquitin attachment to different lysine residues can generate diverse substrate-ubiquitin structures, targeting proteins to different fates. The mechanisms of lysine selection are not well understood. Ubiquitination by the largest group of E3 ligases, the RING-family E3 s, is catalyzed through co-operation between the non-catalytic ubiquitin-ligase (E3) and the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2), where the RING E3 binds the substrate and the E2 catalyzes ubiquitin transfer. Previous studies suggest that ubiquitination sites are selected by E3-mediated positioning of the lysine toward the E2 active site. Ultimately, at a catalytic level, ubiquitination of lysine residues within the substrate or ubiquitin occurs by nucleophilic attack of the lysine residue on the thioester bond linking the E2 catalytic cysteine to ubiquitin. One of the best studied RING E3/E2 complexes is the Skp1/Cul1/F box protein complex, SCFCdc4, and its cognate E2, Cdc34, which target the CDK inhibitor Sic1 for K48-linked polyubiquitination, leading to its proteasomal degradation. Our recent studies of this model system demonstrated that residues surrounding Sic1 lysines or lysine 48 in ubiquitin are critical for ubiquitination. This sequence-dependence is linked to evolutionarily conserved key residues in the catalytic region of Cdc34 and can determine if Sic1 is mono- or poly-ubiquitinated. Our studies indicate that amino acid determinants in the Cdc34 catalytic region and their compatibility to those surrounding acceptor lysine residues play important roles in lysine selection. This may represent a general mechanism in directing the mode of ubiquitination in E2 s.
PMCID: PMC2927562  PMID: 20704751
7.  Quantitative proteomic identification of the BRCA1 ubiquitination substrates 
Journal of proteome research  2011;10(11):5191-5198.
Mutation of the BRCA1 tumor suppressor gene predisposes women to hereditary breast and ovarian cancers. BRCA1 forms a heterodimer with BARD1. The BRCA1/BARD1 heterodimer has ubiquitin ligase activity, considered to play crucial roles in tumor suppression and DNA damage response. Nevertheless, relevant BRCA1 substrates are poorly defined. We have developed a new approach to systematically identify the substrates of ubiquitin ligases by identifying proteins that display enhanced incorporation of His-tagged ubiquitin upon ligase co-expression; using this method, we identified several candidate substrates for BRCA1. These include scaffold attachment factor B2 (SAFB2), Tel2, as well as BARD1. BRCA1 was found to enhance SAFB protein expression and induce Tel2 nuclear translocation. Identification of the ubiquitination substrates has been a major obstacle to understanding the functions of ubiquitin ligases. The quantitative proteomics approach we devised for the identification of BRCA1 substrates will facilitate the identification of ubiquitin ligase-substrate pairs.
PMCID: PMC3208807  PMID: 21950761
BRCA1; BARD1; ubiquitination; substrate; quantitative proteomics
8.  Functional Interchangeability of Late Domains, Late Domain Cofactors and Ubiquitin in Viral Budding 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(10):e1001153.
The membrane scission event that separates nascent enveloped virions from host cell membranes often requires the ESCRT pathway, which can be engaged through the action of peptide motifs, termed late (L-) domains, in viral proteins. Viral PTAP and YPDL-like L-domains bind directly to the ESCRT-I and ALIX components of the ESCRT pathway, while PPxY motifs bind Nedd4-like, HECT-domain containing, ubiquitin ligases (e.g. WWP1). It has been unclear precisely how ubiquitin ligase recruitment ultimately leads to particle release. Here, using a lysine-free viral Gag protein derived from the prototypic foamy virus (PFV), where attachment of ubiquitin to Gag can be controlled, we show that several different HECT domains can replace the WWP1 HECT domain in chimeric ubiquitin ligases and drive budding. Moreover, artificial recruitment of isolated HECT domains to Gag is sufficient to stimulate budding. Conversely, the HECT domain becomes dispensable if the other domains of WWP1 are directly fused to an ESCRT-1 protein. In each case where budding is driven by a HECT domain, its catalytic activity is essential, but Gag ubiquitination is dispensable, suggesting that ubiquitin ligation to trans-acting proteins drives budding. Paradoxically, however, we also demonstrate that direct fusion of a ubiquitin moiety to the C-terminus of PFV Gag can also promote budding, suggesting that ubiquitination of Gag can substitute for ubiquitination of trans-acting proteins. Depletion of Tsg101 and ALIX inhibits budding that is dependent on ubiquitin that is fused to Gag, or ligated to trans-acting proteins through the action of a PPxY motif. These studies underscore the flexibility in the ways that the ESCRT pathway can be engaged, and suggest a model in which the identity of the protein to which ubiquitin is attached is not critical for subsequent recruitment of ubiquitin-binding components of the ESCRT pathway and viral budding to proceed.
Author Summary
The release of an enveloped virus particle from an infected cell requires the separation of the viral and cell membranes. Many enveloped viruses accomplish this by parasitizing a set of cellular proteins, termed the ESCRT pathway, that normally separates cellular membranes from each other. In some cases, viral structural proteins encode peptides motifs that bind directly to, and thereby recruit, the ESCRT machinery. Alternatively, viruses can recruit enzymes, termed ubiquitin ligases, that bind to other proteins, and catalyze the addition of ubiquitin to them. It has, heretofore, been somewhat unclear precisely how the recruitment of ubiquitin ligases leads to the engagement of the ESCRT machinery. We show that the simple recruitment of a fragment of a ubiquitin ligase that is responsible for the addition of ubiquitin to other proteins is sufficient to drive virus particle release, even when it is not possible to attach ubiquitin to viral proteins. Paradoxically, we also found that simple attachment of ubiquitin to the same viral protein can also drive particle release. These results show that there is flexibility in the ways in which the ESCRT machinery can be recruited and how ubiquitin can be co-opted to enable this.
PMCID: PMC2958808  PMID: 20975941
9.  PML Residue Lysine 160 Is Required for the Degradation of PML Induced by Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 Regulatory Protein ICP0 
Journal of Virology  2003;77(16):8686-8694.
During the early stages of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) infection, viral immediate-early regulatory protein ICP0 localizes to and disrupts cellular nuclear structures known as PML nuclear bodies or ND10. These activities correlate with the functions of ICP0 in stimulating lytic infection and reactivating quiescent HSV-1. The disruption of ND10 occurs because ICP0 induces the loss of the SUMO-1-modified forms of PML and the subsequent proteasome-mediated degradation of the PML protein. The functions of ICP0 are largely dependent on the integrity of its zinc-binding RING finger domain. Many RING finger proteins have been found to act as ubiquitin E3 ligase enzymes, stimulating the production of conjugated polyubiquitin chains in the presence of ubiquitin, the ubiquitin-activating enzyme E1, and the appropriate E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme. Substrate proteins that become polyubiquitinated are then subject to degradation by proteasomes. We have previously shown that purified full-length ICP0 acts as an efficient E3 ligase in vitro, producing high-molecular-weight polyubiquitin chains in a RING finger-dependent but substrate-independent manner. In this paper we report on investigations into the factors governing the degradation of PML induced by ICP0 in a variety of in vivo and in vitro assays. We found that ICP0 expression increases the levels of ubiquitinated PML in transfected cells. However, ICP0 does not interact with or directly ubiquitinate either unmodified PML or SUMO-1-modified PML in vitro, suggesting either that additional factors are required for the ICP0-mediated ubiquitination of PML in vivo or that PML degradation is an indirect consequence of some other activity of ICP0 at ND10. Using a transfection-based approach and a family of deletion and point mutations of PML, we found that efficient ICP0-induced PML degradation requires sequences within the C-terminal part of PML and lysine residue 160, one of the principal targets for SUMO-1 modification of the protein.
PMCID: PMC167235  PMID: 12885887
10.  The BARD1 Cys557Ser Variant and Breast Cancer Risk in Iceland 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(7):e217.
Most, if not all, of the cellular functions of the BRCA1 protein are mediated through heterodimeric complexes composed of BRCA1 and a related protein, BARD1. Some breast-cancer-associated BRCA1 missense mutations disrupt the function of the BRCA1/BARD1 complex. It is therefore pertinent to determine whether variants of BARD1 confer susceptibility to breast cancer. Recently, a missense BARD1 variant, Cys557Ser, was reported to be at increased frequencies in breast cancer families. We investigated the role of the BARD1 Cys557Ser variant in a population-based cohort of 1,090 Icelandic patients with invasive breast cancer and 703 controls. We then used a computerized genealogy of the Icelandic population to study the relationships between the Cys557Ser variant and familial clustering of breast cancer.
Methods and Findings
The Cys557Ser allele was present at a frequency of 0.028 in patients with invasive breast cancer and 0.016 in controls (odds ratio [OR] = 1.82, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11–3.01, p = 0.014). The alleleic frequency was 0.037 in a high-predisposition group of cases defined by having a family history of breast cancer, early onset of breast cancer, or multiple primary breast cancers (OR = 2.41, 95% CI 1.22–4.75, p = 0.015). Carriers of the common Icelandic BRCA2 999del5 mutation were found to have their risk of breast cancer further increased if they also carried the BARD1 variant: the frequency of the BARD1 variant allele was 0.047 (OR = 3.11, 95% CI 1.16–8.40, p = 0.046) in 999del5 carriers with breast cancer. This suggests that the lifetime probability of a BARD1 Cys557Ser/BRCA2 999del5 double carrier developing breast cancer could approach certainty. Cys557Ser carriers, with or without the BRCA2 mutation, had an increased risk of subsequent primary breast tumors after the first breast cancer diagnosis compared to non-carriers. Lobular and medullary breast carcinomas were overrepresented amongst Cys557Ser carriers. We found that an excess of ancestors of contemporary carriers lived in a single county in the southeast of Iceland and that all carriers shared a SNP haplotype, which is suggestive of a founder event. Cys557Ser was found on the same SNP haplotype background in the HapMap Project CEPH sample of Utah residents.
Our findings suggest that BARD1 Cys557Ser is an ancient variant that confers risk of single and multiple primary breast cancers, and this risk extends to carriers of the BRCA2 999del5 mutation.
Editors' Summary
About 13% of women (one in eight women) will develop breast cancer during their lifetime, but many factors affect the likelihood of any individual woman developing this disease, for example, whether she has had children and at what age, when she started and stopped her periods, and her exposure to certain chemicals or radiation. She may also have inherited a defective gene that affects her risk of developing breast cancer. Some 5%–10% of all breast cancers are familial, or inherited. In 20% of these cases, the gene that is defective is BRCA1 or BRCA2. Inheriting a defective copy of one of these genes greatly increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer, while researchers think that the other inherited genes that predispose to breast cancer—most of which have not been identified yet—have a much weaker effect. These are described as low-penetrance genes. Inheriting one such gene only slightly increases breast cancer risk; a woman has to inherit several to increase her lifetime risk of cancer significantly.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is important to identify these additional predisposing gene variants because they might provide insights into why breast cancer develops, how to prevent it, and how to treat it. To find low-penetrance genes, researchers do case–control association studies. They find a large group of women with breast cancer (cases) and a similar group of women without cancer (controls), and examine how often a specific gene variant occurs in the two groups. If the variant is found more often in the cases than in the controls, it might be a variant that increases a woman's risk of developing breast cancer.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers involved in this study recruited Icelandic women who had had breast cancer and unaffected women, and looked for a specific variant—the Cys557Ser allele—of a gene called BARD1. They chose BARD1 because the protein it encodes interacts with the protein encoded by BRCA1. Because defects in BRCA1 increase the risk of breast cancer, defects in an interacting protein might have a similar effect. In addition, the Cys557Ser allele has been implicated in breast cancer in other studies. The researchers found that the Cys557Ser allele was nearly twice as common in women with breast cancer as in control women. It was also more common (but not by much) in women who had a family history of breast cancer or who had developed breast cancer more than once. And having the Cys557Ser allele seemed to increase the already high risk of breast cancer in women who had a BRCA2 variant (known as BRCA2 999del5) that accounts for 40% of inherited breast cancer risk in Iceland.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These results indicate that inheriting the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele increases a woman's breast cancer risk but that she is unlikely to have a family history of the disease. Because carrying the Cys557Ser allele only slightly increases a woman's risk of breast cancer, for most women there is no clinical reason to test for this variant. Eventually, when all the low-penetrance genes that contribute to breast cancer risk have been identified, it might be helpful to screen women for the full set to determine whether they are at high risk of developing breast cancer. This will not happen for many years, however, since there might be tens or hundreds of these genes. For women who carry BRCA2 999del5, the situation might be different. It might be worth testing these women for the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele, the researchers explain, because the lifetime probability of developing breast cancer in women carrying both variants might approach 100%. This finding has clinical implications in terms of counseling and monitoring, as does the observation that Cys557Ser carriers have an increased risk of a second, independent breast cancer compared to non-carriers. However, all these findings need to be confirmed in other groups of patients before anyone is routinely tested for the BARD1 Cys557Ser allele.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
• MedlinePlus pages about breast cancer
• Information on breast cancer from the United States National Cancer Institute
• Information on inherited breast cancer from the United States National Human Genome Research Institute
• United States National Cancer Institute information on genetic testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2 variants
• GeneTests pages on the involvement of BRCA1 and BRCA2 in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer
• Cancer Research UK's page on breast cancer statistics
In a population-based cohort of 1090 Icelandic patients, a Cys557Ser missense variant of the BARD1 gene, which interacts with BRCA1, increased the risk of single and multiple primary breast cancers.
PMCID: PMC1479388  PMID: 16768547
11.  The Ubiquitination Machinery of the Ubiquitin System 
The protein ubiquitin is a covalent modifier of proteins, including itself. The ubiquitin system encompasses the enzymes required for catalysing attachment of ubiquitin to substrates as well as proteins that bind to ubiquitinated proteins leading them to their final fate. Also included are activities that remove ubiquitin independent of, or in concert with, proteolysis of the substrate, either by the proteasome or proteases in the vacuole. In addition to ubiquitin encoded by a family of fusion proteins, there are proteins with ubiquitin-like domains, likely forming ubiquitin's β-grasp fold, but incapable of covalent modification. However, they serve as protein-protein interaction platforms within the ubiquitin system. Multi-gene families encode all of these types of activities. Within the ubiquitination machinery “half” of the ubiquitin system are redundant, partially redundant, and unique components affecting diverse developmental and environmental responses in plants. Notably, multiple aspects of biotic and abiotic stress responses require, or are modulated by, ubiquitination. Finally, aspects of the ubiquitin system have broad utility: as components to enhance gene expression or to regulate protein abundance. This review focuses on the ubiquitination machinery: ubiquitin, unique aspects about the synthesis of ubiquitin and organization of its gene family, ubiquitin activating enzymes (E1), ubiquitin conjugating enzymes (E2) and ubiquitin ligases, or E3s. Given the large number of E3s in Arabidopsis this review covers the U box, HECT and RING type E3s, with the exception of the cullin-based E3s.
PMCID: PMC4196676  PMID: 25320573
12.  Dynamic Control of Selectivity in the Ubiquitination Pathway Revealed by an ASP to GLU Substitution in an Intra-Molecular Salt-Bridge Network 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(11):e1002754.
Ubiquitination relies on a subtle balance between selectivity and promiscuity achieved through specific interactions between ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) and ubiquitin ligases (E3s). Here, we report how a single aspartic to glutamic acid substitution acts as a dynamic switch to tip the selectivity balance of human E2s for interaction toward E3 RING-finger domains. By combining molecular dynamic simulations, experimental yeast-two-hybrid screen of E2-E3 (RING) interactions and mutagenesis, we reveal how the dynamics of an internal salt-bridge network at the rim of the E2-E3 interaction surface controls the balance between an “open”, binding competent, and a “closed”, binding incompetent state. The molecular dynamic simulations shed light on the fine mechanism of this molecular switch and allowed us to identify its components, namely an aspartate/glutamate pair, a lysine acting as the central switch and a remote aspartate. Perturbations of single residues in this network, both inside and outside the interaction surface, are sufficient to switch the global E2 interaction selectivity as demonstrated experimentally. Taken together, our results indicate a new mechanism to control E2-E3 interaction selectivity at an atomic level, highlighting how minimal changes in amino acid side-chain affecting the dynamics of intramolecular salt-bridges can be crucial for protein-protein interactions. These findings indicate that the widely accepted sequence-structure-function paradigm should be extended to sequence-structure-dynamics-function relationship and open new possibilities for control and fine-tuning of protein interaction selectivity.
Author Summary
During their life, proteins undergo various modifications ranging from structural marking or signaling to degradation. One major biochemical process involves ubiquitin, a small and evolutionary conserved protein. This regulatory protein serves as a tag that, when attached to a protein substrate, alters its function, cellular sub-location or commits the labeled protein to destruction in the proteasome. The high specificity of the ubiquitination pathway is achieved through interactions between two large protein families, E2 and E3, that ensure the efficient covalent conjugation of ubiquitin. By comparing two “almost identical” E2 enzymes, we identified a single minute substitution that, operated by a dynamic network of salt-bridges, functions as a subtle switch that controls interaction selectivity toward E3 proteins. Using a combination of bioinformatics and modeling techniques, complemented by mutagenesis and experimental screening of E2-E3 interactions, we unraveled an equilibrium between an “open”, binding-competent and a “closed”, binding-incompetent state. Subtle modifications in this network are sufficient to switch the selectivity profile. These findings should serves as a cautionary tale and raises new challenges for bioinformatics analysis, modeling and experimental engineering of protein-protein interactions. The dynamic nature of the identified regulatory switch suggests that the widely accepted sequence-structure-function paradigm should be extended to sequence-structure-dynamics-function.
PMCID: PMC3486841  PMID: 23133359
13.  Proteomic snapshot of the EGF-induced ubiquitin network 
In this work, the authors report the first proteome-wide analysis of EGF-regulated ubiquitination, revealing surprisingly pervasive growth factor-induced ubiquitination across a broad range of cellular systems and signaling pathways.
Epidermal growth factor (EGF) triggers a novel ubiquitin (Ub)-based signaling cascade that appears to intersect both housekeeping and regulatory circuitries of cellular physiology.The EGF-regulated Ubiproteome includes scores ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes, suggesting that the Ub signal might be rapidly transmitted and amplified through the Ub machinery.The EGF-Ubiproteome overlaps significantly with the EGF-phosphotyrosine proteome, pointing to a possible crosstalk between these two signaling mechanisms.The significant number of biological insights uncovered in our study (among which EphA2 as a novel, downstream ubiquitinated target of EGF receptor) illustrates the general relevance of such proteomic screens and calls for further analysis of the dynamics of the Ubiproteome.
Ubiquitination is a process by which one or more ubiquitin (Ub) monomers or chains are covalently attached to target proteins by E3 ligases. Deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) revert Ub conjugation, thus ensuring a dynamic equilibrium between pools of ubiquitinated and deubiquitinated proteins (Amerik and Hochstrasser, 2004). Traditionally, ubiquitination has been associated with protein degradation; however, it is now becoming apparent that this post-translation modification is an important signaling mechanism that can modulate the function, localization and protein/protein interaction abilities of targets (Mukhopadhyay and Riezman, 2007; Ravid and Hochstrasser, 2008).
One of the best-characterized signaling pathways involving ubiquitination is the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced pathway. Upon EGF stimulation, a variety of proteins are subject to Ub modification. These include the EGF receptor (EGFR), which undergoes both multiple monoubiquitination (Haglund et al, 2003) and K63-linked polyubiquitination (Huang et al, 2006), as well as components of the downstream endocytic machinery, which are modified by monoubiquitination (Polo et al, 2002; Mukhopadhyay and Riezman, 2007). Ubiquitination of the EGFR has been shown to have an impact on receptor internalization, intracellular sorting and metabolic fate (Acconcia et al, 2009). However, little is known about the wider impact of EGF-induced ubiquitination on cellular homeostasis and on the pleiotropic biological functions of the EGFR. In this paper, we attempt to address this issue by characterizing the repertoire of proteins that are ubiquitinated upon EGF stimulation, i.e., the EGF-Ubiproteome.
To achieve this, we employed two different purification procedures (endogenous—based on the purification of proteins modified by endogenous Ub from human cells; tandem affinity purification (TAP)—based on the purification of proteins modified by an ectopically expressed tagged-Ub from mouse cells) with stable isotope labeling with amino acids in cell culture-based MS to obtain both steady-state Ubiproteomes and EGF-induced Ubiproteomes. The steady-state Ubiproteomes consist of 1175 and 582 unambiguously identified proteins for the endogenous and TAP approaches, respectively, which we largely validated. Approximately 15% of the steady-state Ubiproteome was EGF-regulated at 10 min after stimulation; 176 of 1175 in the endogenous approach and 105 of 582 in the TAP approach. Both hyper- and hypoubiquitinated proteins were detected, indicating that EGFR-mediated signaling can modulate the ubiquitin network in both directions. Interestingly, many E2, E3 and DUBs were present in the EGF-Ubiproteome, suggesting that the Ub signal might be rapidly transmitted and amplified through the Ub machinery. Moreover, analysis of Ub-chain topology, performed using mass spectrometry and specific abs, suggested that the K63-linkage was the major Ub-based signal in the EGF-induced pathway.
To obtain a higher-resolution molecular picture of the EGF-regulated Ub network, we performed a network analysis on the non-redundant EGF-Ubiproteome (265 proteins). This analysis revealed that in addition to well-established liaisons with endocytosis-related pathways, the EGF-Ubiproteome intersects many circuitries of intracellular signaling involved in, e.g., DNA damage checkpoint regulation, cell-to-cell adhesion mechanisms and actin remodeling (Figure 5A).
Moreover, the EGF-Ubiproteome was enriched in hubs, proteins that can establish multiple protein/protein interaction and thereby regulate the organization of networks. These results are indicative of a crosstalk between EGFR-activated pathways and other signaling pathways through the Ub-network.
As EGF binding to its receptor also triggers a series of phosphorylation events, we examined whether there was any overlap between our EGF-Ubiproteome and published EGF-induced phosphotyrosine (pY) proteomes (Blagoev et al, 2004; Oyama et al, 2009; Hammond et al, 2010). We observed a significant overlap between ubiquitinated and pY proteins: 23% (61 of 265) of the EGF-Ubiproteome proteins were also tyrosine phosphorylated. Pathway analysis of these 61 Ub/pY-containing proteins revealed a significant enrichment in endocytic and signal-transduction pathways, while ‘hub analysis' revealed that Ub/pY-containing proteins are enriched in highly connected proteins to an even greater extent than Ub-containing proteins alone. These data point to a complex interplay between the Ub and pY networks and suggest that the flow of information from the receptor to downstream signaling molecules is driven by two complementary and interlinked enzymatic cascades: kinases/phosphatases and E3 ligases/DUBs.
Finally, we provided a proof of principle of the biological relevance of our EGF-Ubiproteome. We focused on EphA2, a receptor tyrosine kinase, which is involved in development and is often overexpressed in cancer (Pasquale, 2008). We started from the observation that EphA2 is present in the EGF-Ubiproteome and that proteins of the EGF-Ubiproteome are enriched in the Ephrin receptor signaling pathway(s). We confirmed the MS data by demonstrating that the EphA2 is ubiquitinated upon EGF stimulation. Moreover, EphA2 also undergoes tyrosine phosphorylation, indicating crosstalk between the two receptors. The EGFR kinase domain was essential for these modifications of EphA2, and a partial co-internalization with EGFR upon EGF activation was clearly detectable. Finally, we demonstrated by knockdown of EphA2 in MCF10A cells that this receptor is critically involved in EGFR biological outcomes, such as proliferation and migration (Figure 7).
Overall, our results unveil the complex impact of growth factor signaling on Ub-based intracellular networks to levels that extend well beyond what might have been expected and highlight the ‘resource' feature of our EGF-Ubiproteome.
The activity, localization and fate of many cellular proteins are regulated through ubiquitination, a process whereby one or more ubiquitin (Ub) monomers or chains are covalently attached to target proteins. While Ub-conjugated and Ub-associated proteomes have been described, we lack a high-resolution picture of the dynamics of ubiquitination in response to signaling. In this study, we describe the epidermal growth factor (EGF)-regulated Ubiproteome, as obtained by two complementary purification strategies coupled to quantitative proteomics. Our results unveil the complex impact of growth factor signaling on Ub-based intracellular networks to levels that extend well beyond what might have been expected. In addition to endocytic proteins, the EGF-regulated Ubiproteome includes a large number of signaling proteins, ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes, transporters and proteins involved in translation and transcription. The Ub-based signaling network appears to intersect both housekeeping and regulatory circuitries of cellular physiology. Finally, as proof of principle of the biological relevance of the EGF-Ubiproteome, we demonstrated that EphA2 is a novel, downstream ubiquitinated target of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), critically involved in EGFR biological responses.
PMCID: PMC3049407  PMID: 21245847
EGF; network; proteomics; signaling; ubiquitin
14.  UBXN7 docks on neddylated cullin complexes using its UIM motif and causes HIF1α accumulation 
BMC Biology  2012;10:36.
The proteins from the UBA-UBX family interact with ubiquitylated proteins via their UBA domain and with p97 via their UBX domain, thereby acting as substrate-binding adaptors for the p97 ATPase. In particular, human UBXN7 (also known as UBXD7) mediates p97 interaction with the transcription factor HIF1α that is actively ubiquitylated in normoxic cells by a CUL2-based E3 ligase, CRL2. Mass spectrometry analysis of UBA-UBX protein immunoprecipitates showed that they interact with a multitude of E3 ubiquitin-ligases. Conspicuously, UBXN7 was most proficient in interacting with cullin-RING ligase subunits. We therefore set out to determine whether UBXN7 interaction with cullins was direct or mediated by its ubiquitylated targets bound to the UBA domain.
We show that UBXN7 interaction with cullins is independent of ubiquitin- and substrate-binding. Instead, it relies on the UIM motif in UBXN7 that directly engages the NEDD8 modification on cullins. To understand the functional consequences of UBXN7 interaction with neddylated cullins, we focused on HIF1α, a CUL2 substrate that uses UBXD7/p97 as a ubiquitin-receptor on its way to proteasome-mediated degradation. We find that UBXN7 over-expression converts CUL2 to its neddylated form and causes the accumulation of non-ubiquitylated HIF1α. Both of these effects are strictly UIM-dependent and occur only when UBXN7 contains an intact UIM motif. We also show that HIF1α carrying long ubiquitin-chains can recruit alternative ubiquitin-receptors, lacking p97's ATP-dependent segregase activity.
Our study shows that independently of its function as a ubiquitin-binding adaptor for p97, UBXN7 directly interacts with neddylated cullins and causes the accumulation of the CUL2 substrate HIF1α. We propose that by sequestering CUL2 in its neddylated form, UBXN7 negatively regulates the ubiquitin-ligase activity of CRL2 and this might prevent recruitment of ubiquitin-receptors other than p97 to nuclear HIF1α.
PMCID: PMC3349548  PMID: 22537386
cullin; NEDD8; p97; ubiquitin-dependent degradation; UBXD7
15.  The Mechanism of Ubiquitination in the Cullin-RING E3 Ligase Machinery: Conformational Control of Substrate Orientation 
PLoS Computational Biology  2009;5(10):e1000527.
In cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligases, substrate binding proteins, such as VHL-box, SOCS-box or the F-box proteins, recruit substrates for ubiquitination, accurately positioning and orienting the substrates for ubiquitin transfer. Yet, how the E3 machinery precisely positions the substrate is unknown. Here, we simulated nine substrate binding proteins: Skp2, Fbw7, β-TrCP1, Cdc4, Fbs1, TIR1, pVHL, SOCS2, and SOCS4, in the unbound form and bound to Skp1, ASK1 or Elongin C. All nine proteins have two domains: one binds to the substrate; the other to E3 ligase modules Skp1/ASK1/Elongin C. We discovered that in all cases the flexible inter-domain linker serves as a hinge, rotating the substrate binding domain, optimally and accurately positioning it for ubiquitin transfer. We observed a conserved proline in the linker of all nine proteins. In all cases, the prolines pucker substantially and the pucker is associated with the backbone rotation toward the E2/ubiquitin. We further observed that the linker flexibility could be regulated allosterically by binding events associated with either domain. We conclude that the flexible linker in the substrate binding proteins orients the substrate for the ubiquitin transfer. Our findings provide a mechanism for ubiquitination and polyubiquitination, illustrating that these processes are under conformational control.
Author Summary
The Ubiquitin-Proteasome System regulates protein degradation via several steps. The cullin-RING E3 ligase machinery is involved in one of these. In this step, ubiquitin is transferred from E2 to the substrate protein, labeling the substrate protein for degradation. However, when E3, E3-substrate and E2-ubiquitin crystal structures are modeled together, the distance between ubiquitinated E2 and the substrate binding site is ∼50–59Å, raising the question how the E3 machinery bridges the distance and orients the substrate for the ubiquitin transfer. We performed explicit solvent simulations for all nine available substrate binding protein complexes in the PDB, with and without the corresponding E3 components to which they are bound. In all of these nine substrate binding proteins, we noticed a flexible linker that rotates the substrate binding domain to a great extent in the same direction, toward the E2-ubiquin. We further noticed that the flexibility is regulated allosterically by binding events associated with either domain. The results suggest that the flexible linker serves as a hinge to rotate the substrate binding domain and to accurately position the substrate for ubiquitination. As such, the simulations suggest an answer to the question of how the machinery operates to orient the substrate for ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC2741574  PMID: 19798438
16.  A Pathogen Type III Effector with a Novel E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Architecture 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(1):e1003121.
Type III effectors are virulence factors of Gram-negative bacterial pathogens delivered directly into host cells by the type III secretion nanomachine where they manipulate host cell processes such as the innate immunity and gene expression. Here, we show that the novel type III effector XopL from the model plant pathogen Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria exhibits E3 ubiquitin ligase activity in vitro and in planta, induces plant cell death and subverts plant immunity. E3 ligase activity is associated with the C-terminal region of XopL, which specifically interacts with plant E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzymes and mediates formation of predominantly K11-linked polyubiquitin chains. The crystal structure of the XopL C-terminal domain revealed a single domain with a novel fold, termed XL-box, not present in any previously characterized E3 ligase. Mutation of amino acids in the central cavity of the XL-box disrupts E3 ligase activity and prevents XopL-induced plant cell death. The lack of cysteine residues in the XL-box suggests the absence of thioester-linked ubiquitin-E3 ligase intermediates and a non-catalytic mechanism for XopL-mediated ubiquitination. The crystal structure of the N-terminal region of XopL confirmed the presence of a leucine-rich repeat (LRR) domain, which may serve as a protein-protein interaction module for ubiquitination target recognition. While the E3 ligase activity is required to provoke plant cell death, suppression of PAMP responses solely depends on the N-terminal LRR domain. Taken together, the unique structural fold of the E3 ubiquitin ligase domain within the Xanthomonas XopL is unprecedented and highlights the variation in bacterial pathogen effectors mimicking this eukaryote-specific activity.
Author Summary
Numerous bacterial pathogens infecting plants, animals and humans use a common strategy of host colonization, which involves injection of specific proteins termed effectors into the host cell. Identification of effector proteins and elucidation of their individual functions is essential for our understanding of the pathogenesis process. Here, we identify a novel effector, XopL, from Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria, which causes disease in tomato and pepper plants. We show that XopL suppresses PAMP-related defense gene expression and further characterize XopL as an E3 ubiquitin ligase. This eukaryote-specific function involves attachment of ubiquitin molecule(s) to a particular protein targeted for degradation or localisation to specific cell compartments. Ubiquitination processes play a central role in cell-cycle regulation, DNA repair, cell growth and immune responses. In the case of XopL this activity triggers plant cell death. Through structural and functional analysis we demonstrate that XopL contains two distinct domains, one of which demonstrates a novel fold never previously observed in E3 ubiquitin ligases. This novel domain specifically interacts with plant ubiquitination system components. Our findings provide the first insights into the function of a previously unknown XopL effector and identify a new member of the growing family of bacterial pathogenic factors hijacking the host ubiquitination system.
PMCID: PMC3554608  PMID: 23359647
17.  Parkin, A Top Level Manager in the Cell’s Sanitation Department 
Parkin belongs to a class of multiple RING domain proteins designated as RBR (RING, in between RING, RING) proteins. In this review we examine what is known regarding the structure/function relationship of the Parkin protein. Parkin contains three RING domains plus a ubiquitin-like domain and an in-between-RING (IBR) domain. RING domains are rich in cysteine amino acids that act as ligands to bind zinc ions. RING domains may interact with DNA or with other proteins and perform a wide range of functions. Some function as E3 ubiquitin ligases, participating in attachment of ubiquitin chains to signal proteasome degradation; however, ubiquitin may be attached for purposes other than proteasome degradation.
It was determined that the C-terminal most RING, RING2, is essential for Parkin to function as an E3 ubiquitin ligase and a number of substrates have been identified. However, Parkin also participates in a number of other fiunctions, such as DNA repair, microtubule stabilization, and formation of aggresomes. Some functions, such as participation in a multi-protein complex implicated in NMDA activity at the post synaptic density, do not require ubiquitination of substrate molecules. Recent observations of RING proteins suggest their function may be regulated by zinc ion binding. We have modeled the three RING domains of Parkin and have identified a new set of RING2 ligands. This set allows for binding of two rather than just one zinc ion, opening the possibility that the number of zinc ions bound acts as a molecular switch to modulate Parkin function.
PMCID: PMC3104551  PMID: 21633666
Parkin; zinc-binding; RING; domains; E3 ligase ubiquitination.
18.  Kaposi's Sarcoma-Associated Herpesvirus K-Rta Exhibits SUMO-Targeting Ubiquitin Ligase (STUbL) Like Activity and Is Essential for Viral Reactivation 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(8):e1003506.
The small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) is a protein that regulates a wide variety of cellular processes by covalent attachment of SUMO moieties to a diverse array of target proteins. Sumoylation also plays an important role in the replication of many viruses. Previously, we showed that Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV) encodes a SUMO-ligase, K-bZIP, which catalyzes sumoylation of host and viral proteins. We report here that this virus also encodes a gene that functions as a SUMO-targeting ubiquitin-ligase (STUbL) which preferentially targets sumoylated proteins for degradation. K-Rta, the major transcriptional factor which turns on the entire lytic cycle, was recently found to have ubiquitin ligase activity toward a selected set of substrates. We show in this study that K-Rta contains multiple SIMs (SUMO interacting motif) and binds SUMOs with higher affinity toward SUMO-multimers. Like RNF4, the prototypic cellular STUbL, K-Rta degrades SUMO-2/3 and SUMO-2/3 modified proteins, including promyelocytic leukemia (PML) and K-bZIP. PML-NBs (nuclear bodies) or ND-10 are storage warehouses for sumoylated proteins, which negatively regulate herpesvirus infection, as part of the intrinsic immune response. Herpesviruses have evolved different ways to degrade or disperse PML bodies, and KSHV utilizes K-Rta to inhibit PML-NBs formation. This process depends on K-Rta's ability to bind SUMO, as a K-Rta SIM mutant does not effectively degrade PML. Mutations in the K-Rta Ring finger-like domain or SIM significantly inhibited K-Rta transactivation activity in reporter assays and in the course of viral reactivation. Finally, KSHV with a mutation in the Ring finger-like domain or SIM of K-Rta replicates poorly in culture, indicating that reducing SUMO-conjugates in host cells is important for viral replication. To our knowledge, this is the first virus which encodes both a SUMO ligase and a SUMO-targeting ubiquitin ligase that together may generate unique gene regulatory programs.
Author Summary
Protein modification by SUMO (small ubiquitin-like modifier), like phosphorylation, is now considered to be an important biochemical signal involved in nearly all cellular processes. Not surprisingly, it is also implicated in viral replication and host immune response. Timely turning on and off of SUMO signaling on viral and host proteins are important for virus to advance its replication. We previously described the identification of a viral SUMO E3 ligase encoded by Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpesvirus (KSHV), which couples SUMO to recipient proteins. Here we report the discovery of a SUMO-targeting E3 ubiquitin ligase (STUbL) like function, also encoded by this virus. K-Rta preferentially degrades sumoylated proteins such as PML (promyelocytic leukemia) which negatively regulates viral replication. KSHV K-Rta is well recognized as a strong transcriptional factor and a trigger for viral reactivation. Recombinant KSHVs defective in reducing cellular SUMO conjugates are significantly compromised in their reactivation activity. Our finding not only uncovers a novel function of the transcriptional factor, K-Rta, but also points to the importance of dynamic regulation of the SUMO environment in herpesvirus replication.
PMCID: PMC3749962  PMID: 23990779
19.  Human proteome-scale structural modeling of E2-E3 interactions exploiting interface motifs 
Journal of Proteome Research  2012;11(2):1196-1207.
Ubiquitination is crucial for many cellular processes such as protein degradation, DNA repair, transcription regulation and cell signaling. Ubiquitin attachment takes place via a sequential enzymatic cascade involving ubiquitin-activation (by E1 enzymes), ubiquitin-conjugation (by E2 enzymes), and ubiquitin substrate-tagging (by E3 enzymes). E3 ligases mediate ubiquitin transfer from E2s to substrates and as such confer substrate specificity. Although E3s can interact and function with numerous E2s, it is still unclear how they choose which E2 to use. Identifying all E2 partners of an E3 is essential for inferring the principles guiding E2 selection by an E3. Here we model the interactions of E3 and E2 proteins in a large, proteome-scale strategy based on interface structural motifs, which allows elucidation of 1) which E3s interact with which E2s in the human ubiquitination pathway; and 2) how they interact with each other. Interface analysis of E2-E3 complexes reveals that loop L1 of E2s is critical for binding; the residue in the sixth position in loop L1 is widely utilized as an interface hot spot and appears indispensible for E2 interactions. Other loop L1 residues also confer specificity on the E2-E3 interactions: HECT E3s are in contact with the residue in the second position in loop L1 of E2s; but this is not the case for the RING finger type E3s. Our modeled E2-E3 complexes illuminate how slight sequence variations in E2 residues may contribute to specificity in E3 binding. These findings may be important for discovering drug candidates targeting E3s, which have been implicated in many diseases.
PMCID: PMC3285560  PMID: 22149024
ubiquitination; E2; E3; proteomics; protein-protein interactions; protein-protein interfaces; degradation; proteome-scale structural maps
20.  A Perturbed Ubiquitin Landscape Distinguishes Between Ubiquitin in Trafficking and in Proteolysis* 
Molecular & Cellular Proteomics : MCP  2011;10(5):M111.009753.
Any of seven lysine residues on ubiquitin can serve as the base for chain-extension, resulting in a sizeable spectrum of ubiquitin modifications differing in chain length or linkage type. By optimizing a procedure for rapid lysis, we charted the profile of conjugated cellular ubiquitin directly from whole cell extract. Roughly half of conjugated ubiquitin (even at high molecular weights) was nonextended, consisting of monoubiquitin modifications and chain terminators (endcaps). Of extended ubiquitin, the primary linkages were via Lys48 and Lys63. All other linkages were detected, contributing a relatively small portion that increased at lower molecular weights. In vivo expression of lysineless ubiquitin (K0 Ub) perturbed the ubiquitin landscape leading to elevated levels of conjugated ubiquitin, with a higher mono-to-poly ratio. Affinity purification of these trapped conjugates identified a comprehensive list of close to 900 proteins including novel targets. Many of the proteins enriched by K0 ubiquitination were membrane-associated, or involved in cellular trafficking. Prime among them are components of the ESCRT machinery and adaptors of the Rsp5 E3 ubiquitin ligase. Ubiquitin chains associated with these substrates were enriched for Lys63 linkages over Lys48, indicating that K0 Ub is unevenly distributed throughout the ubiquitinome. Biological assays validated the interference of K0 Ub with protein trafficking and MVB sorting, minimally affecting Lys48-dependent turnover of proteasome substrates. We conclude that despite the shared use of the ubiquitin molecule, the two branches of the ubiquitin machinery—the ubiquitin-proteasome system and the ubiquitin trafficking system—were unevenly perturbed by expression of K0 ubiquitin.
PMCID: PMC3098606  PMID: 21427232
21.  Nucleosome Acidic Patch Promotes RNF168- and RING1B/BMI1-Dependent H2AX and H2A Ubiquitination and DNA Damage Signaling 
PLoS Genetics  2014;10(3):e1004178.
Histone ubiquitinations are critical for the activation of the DNA damage response (DDR). In particular, RNF168 and RING1B/BMI1 function in the DDR by ubiquitinating H2A/H2AX on Lys-13/15 and Lys-118/119, respectively. However, it remains to be defined how the ubiquitin pathway engages chromatin to provide regulation of ubiquitin targeting of specific histone residues. Here we identify the nucleosome acid patch as a critical chromatin mediator of H2A/H2AX ubiquitination (ub). The acidic patch is required for RNF168- and RING1B/BMI1-dependent H2A/H2AXub in vivo. The acidic patch functions within the nucleosome as nucleosomes containing a mutated acidic patch exhibit defective H2A/H2AXub by RNF168 and RING1B/BMI1 in vitro. Furthermore, direct perturbation of the nucleosome acidic patch in vivo by the expression of an engineered acidic patch interacting viral peptide, LANA, results in defective H2AXub and RNF168-dependent DNA damage responses including 53BP1 and BRCA1 recruitment to DNA damage. The acidic patch therefore is a critical nucleosome feature that may serve as a scaffold to integrate multiple ubiquitin signals on chromatin to compose selective ubiquitinations on histones for DNA damage signaling.
Author Summary
Post-translational modifications of histones play important roles in regulating both the structure and function of chromatin. As all DNA based processes, including transcription, DNA replication and DNA repair, occur within the context of chromatin, the actual in vivo substrate of these reactions is chromatin. Thus, understanding these processes within the context of chromatin is vital for providing mechanistic insights into chromatin-based processes, including DNA damage signaling and genome maintenance. Here we identify a structure within H2A and H2AX termed the acidic patch that promotes the activity of two independent ubiquitin E3 ligase complexes, RNF168 and RING1B/BMI1, and is required for DNA damage ubiquitin signaling. We show directly in vitro and in vivo that this nucleosome structure is critical for histone H2A and H2AX ubiquitinations and the DNA damage response in cells. In addition, we engineered a novel biological tool that blocked the nucleosome acidic patch of all histone H2A species leading to the repression of the DNA damage response in cells. Collectively, DNA damage factors elicit their response not only through histone modifications such as ubiquitin but also through interactions within nucleosome surface structures to activate DNA damage signaling.
PMCID: PMC3945288  PMID: 24603765
22.  Disease-Associated Mutant Ubiquitin Causes Proteasomal Impairment and Enhances the Toxicity of Protein Aggregates 
PLoS Genetics  2009;5(2):e1000382.
Protein homeostasis is critical for cellular survival and its dysregulation has been implicated in Alzheimer's disease (AD) and other neurodegenerative disorders. Despite the growing appreciation of the pathogenic mechanisms involved in familial forms of AD, much less is known about the sporadic cases. Aggregates found in both familial and sporadic AD often include proteins other than those typically associated with the disease. One such protein is a mutant form of ubiquitin, UBB+1, a frameshift product generated by molecular misreading of a wild-type ubiquitin gene. UBB+1 has been associated with multiple disorders. UBB+1 cannot function as a ubiquitin molecule, and it is itself a substrate for degradation by the ubiquitin/proteasome system (UPS). Accumulation of UBB+1 impairs the proteasome system and enhances toxic protein aggregation, ultimately resulting in cell death. Here, we describe a novel model system to investigate how UBB+1 impairs UPS function and whether it plays a causal role in protein aggregation. We expressed a protein analogous to UBB+1 in yeast (Ubext) and demonstrated that it caused UPS impairment. Blocking ubiquitination of Ubext or weakening its interactions with other ubiquitin-processing proteins reduced the UPS impairment. Expression of Ubext altered the conjugation of wild-type ubiquitin to a UPS substrate. The expression of Ubext markedly enhanced cellular susceptibility to toxic protein aggregates but, surprisingly, did not induce or alter nontoxic protein aggregates in yeast. Taken together, these results suggest that Ubext interacts with more than one protein to elicit impairment of the UPS and affect protein aggregate toxicity. Furthermore, we suggest a model whereby chronic UPS impairment could inflict deleterious consequences on proper protein aggregate sequestration.
Author Summary
The accumulation of cytotoxic protein aggregates occurs in many neurodegenerative diseases. It is difficult to determine if the protein aggregates found in these diseases represent a cause or consequence of the disorder. Degradation pathways, such as the ubiquitin/proteasome system (UPS), remove misfolded proteins that are prone to aggregate. The UPS involves many players that work in concert to target proteins for degradation by the proteasome. A mutant form of ubiquitin has been associated with many diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. We developed a yeast model of the mutant ubiquitin protein in order to investigate its effect on UPS function and protein aggregation. We demonstrate that this mutant ubiquitin causes impairment of the UPS and suggest that it does so by interacting with multiple components of the pathway. Using this model, we evaluated the effects of the mutant ubiquitin on nontoxic protein aggregates and found that they were unaltered by its presence. We demonstrate that the mutant ubiquitin acts as a modifier, which increases cellular susceptibility to the phenotypic effects of deleterious protein aggregates by altering UPS functionality and substrate ubiquitination. Furthermore, the system we developed can be utilized to further understand the complex interplay of proteasomal impairment and protein aggregate toxicity.
PMCID: PMC2633047  PMID: 19214209
23.  Blood cellular mutant LXR-α protein stability governs initiation of coronary heart disease 
World Journal of Cardiology  2013;5(8):305-312.
AIM: To investigate the role of [breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility 1 (BRCA1)-associated RING domain 1 (BARD1)]/BRCA1 E3-ubiquitin ligase complex in governing the stability of mutant liver X receptor-α (LXR-α) protein in coronary heart disease (CHD) subjects.
METHODS: The expression analysis of various genes was carried out by quantitative real time polymerase chain reaction and western blotting within blood mononuclear cells of human CHD subjects at various stages of coronary occlusion and their corresponding normal healthy counterparts. Immunoprecipitation experiments were performed to establish protein interactions between LXR-α and BARD1. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells were cultured and exposed to Vitamin D3 and Cisplatin to validate the degradation of mutant LXR-α protein in CHD subjects by BARD1/BRCA1 complex.
RESULTS: The expression of mutant LXR-α protein in CHD subjects was found to decrease gradually with the severity of coronary occlusion exhibiting a strong negative correlation, r = -0.975 at P < 0.001. Further, the expression of BARD1 and BRCA1 also increased with the disease severity, r = 0.895 and 0.873 respectively (P < 0.001). Immunoprecipitation studies established that BARD1/BRCA1 complex degrades mutant LXR-α via ubiquitination. The absence of functional LXR-α protein resulted in increased expression of inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8 and interferon-γ and decreased expression of ABCA1 (ATP-binding cassette A1) (r = 0.932, 0.949, 0.918 and -0.902 with respect to Gensini score; P < 0.001). Additionally, cell culture experiments proved that Vitamin D3 could prevent the degradation of mutant LXR-α and restore its functional activity to some extent.
CONCLUSION: Mutant LXR-α protein in CHD subjects is degraded by BARD1/BRCA1 complex and Vitamin D3 can rescue and restore its function.
PMCID: PMC3761184  PMID: 24009820
Mutant liver X receptor-α; Ubiquitination; Breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility 1-associated RING domain 1/breast and ovarian cancer susceptibility 1; Mononuclear Cells; Coronary heart disease subjects; Vitamin D3
24.  A comprehensive framework of E2–RING E3 interactions of the human ubiquitin–proteasome system 
Covalent attachment of ubiquitin to substrates is crucial to protein degradation, transcription regulation and cell signalling. Highly specific interactions between ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2) and ubiquitin protein E3 ligases fulfil essential roles in this process. We performed a global yeast-two hybrid screen to study the specificity of interactions between catalytic domains of the 35 human E2s with 250 RING-type E3s. Our analysis showed over 300 high-quality interactions, uncovering a large fraction of new E2–E3 pairs. Both within the E2 and the E3 cohorts, several members were identified that are more versatile in their interaction behaviour than others. We also found that the physical interactions of our screen compare well with reported functional E2–E3 pairs in in vitro ubiquitination experiments. For validation we confirmed the interaction of several versatile E2s with E3s in in vitro protein interaction assays and we used mutagenesis to alter the E3 interactions of the E2 specific for K63 linkages, UBE2N(Ubc13), towards the K48-specific UBE2D2(UbcH5B). Our data provide a detailed, genome-wide overview of binary E2–E3 interactions of the human ubiquitination system.
PMCID: PMC2736652  PMID: 19690564
protein network; protein–protein interaction networks; ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes; ubiquitin–protein ligases; yeast two-hybrid
25.  Stealing the spotlight: CUL4-DDB1 ubiquitin ligase docks WD40-repeat proteins to destroy 
Cell Division  2007;2:5.
Recent investigation of Cullin 4 (CUL4) has ushered this class of multiprotein ubiquitin E3 ligases to center stage as critical regulators of diverse processes including cell cycle regulation, developmental patterning, DNA replication, DNA damage and repair, and epigenetic control of gene expression. CUL4 associates with DNA Damage Binding protein 1 (DDB1) to assemble an ubiquitin E3 ligase that targets protein substrates for ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. CUL4 ligase activity is also regulated by the covalent attachment of the ubiquitin-like protein NEDD8 to CUL4, or neddylation, and the COP9 signalosome complex (CSN) that removes this important modification. Recently, multiple WD40-repeat proteins (WDR) were found to interact with DDB1 and serve as the substrate-recognition subunits of the CUL4-DDB1 ubiquitin ligase. As more than 150–300 WDR proteins exist in the human genome, these findings impact a wide array of biological processes through CUL4 ligase-mediated proteolysis. Here, we review the recent progress in understanding the mechanism of CUL4 ubiquitin E3 ligase and discuss the architecture of CUL4-assembled E3 ubiquitin ligase complexes by comparison to CUL1-based E3s (SCF). Then, we will review several examples to highlight the critical roles of CUL4 ubiquitin ligase in genome stability, cell cycle regulation, and histone lysine methylation. Together, these studies provide insights into the mechanism of this novel ubiquitin ligase in the regulation of important biological processes.
PMCID: PMC1805432  PMID: 17280619

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