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1.  Ubiquitination site preferences in anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) substrates 
Open Biology  2013;3(9):130097.
Ordered progression of mitosis requires precise control in abundance of mitotic regulators. The anaphase promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C) ubiquitin ligase plays a key role by directing ubiquitin-mediated destruction of targets in a temporally and spatially defined manner. Specificity in APC/C targeting is conferred through recognition of substrate D-box and KEN degrons, while the specificity of ubiquitination sites, as another possible regulated dimension, has not yet been explored. Here, we present the first analysis of ubiquitination sites in the APC/C substrate ubiquitome. We show that KEN is a preferred ubiquitin acceptor in APC/C substrates and that acceptor sites are enriched in predicted disordered regions and flanked by serine residues. Our experimental data confirm a role for the KEN lysine as an ubiquitin acceptor contributing to substrate destruction during mitotic progression. Using Aurora A and Nek2 kinases as examples, we show that phosphorylation on the flanking serine residue could directly regulate ubiquitination and subsequent degradation of substrates. We propose a novel layer of regulation in substrate ubiquitination, via phosphorylation adjacent to the KEN motif, in APC/C-mediated targeting.
PMCID: PMC3787748  PMID: 24004664
ubiquitination; ubiquitin acceptor; (APC/C); KEN; degron; Aurora A
2.  Structure of the HHARI Catalytic Domain Shows Glimpses of a HECT E3 Ligase 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e74047.
The ubiquitin-signaling pathway utilizes E1 activating, E2 conjugating, and E3 ligase enzymes to sequentially transfer the small modifier protein ubiquitin to a substrate protein. During the last step of this cascade different types of E3 ligases either act as scaffolds to recruit an E2 enzyme and substrate (RING), or form an ubiquitin-thioester intermediate prior to transferring ubiquitin to a substrate (HECT). The RING-inBetweenRING-RING (RBR) proteins constitute a unique group of E3 ubiquitin ligases that includes the Human Homologue of Drosophila Ariadne (HHARI). These E3 ligases are proposed to use a hybrid RING/HECT mechanism whereby the enzyme uses facets of both the RING and HECT enzymes to transfer ubiquitin to a substrate. We now present the solution structure of the HHARI RING2 domain, the key portion of this E3 ligase required for the RING/HECT hybrid mechanism. The structure shows the domain possesses two Zn2+-binding sites and a single exposed cysteine used for ubiquitin catalysis. A structural comparison of the RING2 domain with the HECT E3 ligase NEDD4 reveals a near mirror image of the cysteine and histidine residues in the catalytic site. Further, a tandem pair of aromatic residues exists near the C-terminus of the HHARI RING2 domain that is conserved in other RBR E3 ligases. One of these aromatic residues is remotely located from the catalytic site that is reminiscent of the location found in HECT E3 enzymes where it is used for ubiquitin catalysis. These observations provide an initial structural rationale for the RING/HECT hybrid mechanism for ubiquitination used by the RBR E3 ligases.
PMCID: PMC3772753  PMID: 24058416
3.  Synaptic protein ubiquitination in rat brain revealed by antibody-based ubiquitome analysis 
Journal of proteome research  2012;11(9):4722-4732.
Protein ubiquitination is an essential posttranslational modification regulating neurodevelopment, synaptic plasticity, learning and memory, and its dysregulation contributes to the pathogenesis of neurological diseases. Here we report a systematic analysis of ubiquitinated proteome (ubiquitome) in rat brain using a newly developed monoclonal antibody that recognizes the diglycine tag on lysine residues in trypsinized peptides (K-GG peptides). Initial antibody specificity analysis showed that the antibody can distinguish K-GG peptides from linear GG peptides or pseudo K-GG peptides derived from iodoacetamide. To evaluate the false discovery rate of K-GG peptide matches during database search, we introduced a null experiment using bacterial lysate that contains no such peptides. The brain ubiquitome was then analyzed by this antibody enrichment with or without strong cation exchange (SCX) prefractionation. During SCX chromatography, although the vast majority of K-GG peptides were detected in the fractions containing at least three positive charged peptides, specific K-GG peptides with two positive charges (e.g. protein N-terminal acetylated and C-terminal non-K/R peptides) were also identified in early fractions. The reliability of C-terminal K-GG peptides was also extensively investigated. Finally, we collected a dataset of 1786 K-GG sites on 2064 peptides in 921 proteins and estimated their abundance by spectral counting. The study reveals a wide range of ubiquitination events on key components in presynaptic region (e.g. Bassoon, NSF, SNAP25, synapsin, synaptotagmin, and syntaxin) and postsynaptic density (e.g. PSD-95, GKAP, CaMKII, as well as receptors for NMDA, AMPA, GABA, serotonin, and acetylcholine). We also determined ubiquitination sites on amyloid precursor protein and alpha synuclein that are thought to be causative agents in Alzhermer’s and Parkinson’s disorders, respectively. As K-GG peptides can also be produced from Nedd8 or ISG15 modified proteins, we quantified these proteins in the brain and found that their levels are less than 2% of ubiquitin. Together, this study demonstrates that a large number of neuronal proteins are modified by ubiquitination, and provides a feasible method for profiling the ubiquitome in the brain.
PMCID: PMC3443409  PMID: 22871113
ubiquitin; synapse; antibody; proteomics; mass spectrometry
4.  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
5.  A spectrophotometric assay for conjugation of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like proteins1 
Analytical biochemistry  2011;418(1):102-110.
Ubiquitination is a widely-studied regulatory modification involved in protein degradation, DNA damage repair and the immune response. Conjugation of ubiquitin to a substrate lysine occurs in an enzymatic cascade involving an E1 ubiquitin activating enzyme, and E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme, and an E3 ubiquitin ligase. Assays for ubiquitin conjugation include electrophoretic mobility shift assays and detection of epitope-tagged or radiolabeled ubiquitin, which are difficult to quantitate accurately and are not amenable to high throughput screening. We have developed a colorimetric assay that quantifies ubiquitin conjugation by monitoring pyrophosphate released in the first enzymatic step in ubiquitin transfer, the ATP-dependent charging of the E1 enzyme. The assay is rapid, does not rely on radioactive labeling, and requires only a spectrophotometer for detection of pyrophosphate formation. We show that pyrophosphate production by E1 is dependent on ubiquitin transfer and describe how to optimize assay conditions to measure E1, E2, or E3 activity. The kinetics of polyubiquitin chain formation by Ubc13-Mms2 measured by this assay are similar to those determined by gel assays, indicating that the data produced by this method are comparable to methods that measure ubiquitin transfer directly. This assay is adaptable to high-throughput screening of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like conjugating enzymes.
PMCID: PMC3178097  PMID: 21771579
Ubiquitin Conjugation; Ubiquitin-like proteins; Ubc13-Mms2; ubiquitin-activating enzyme
6.  UUCD: a family-based database of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like conjugation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(D1):D445-D451.
In this work, we developed a family-based database of UUCD ( for ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like conjugation, which is one of the most important post-translational modifications responsible for regulating a variety of cellular processes, through a similar E1 (ubiquitin-activating enzyme)–E2 (ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme)–E3 (ubiquitin-protein ligase) enzyme thioester cascade. Although extensive experimental efforts have been taken, an integrative data resource is still not available. From the scientific literature, 26 E1s, 105 E2s, 1003 E3s and 148 deubiquitination enzymes (DUBs) were collected and classified into 1, 3, 19 and 7 families, respectively. To computationally characterize potential enzymes in eukaryotes, we constructed 1, 1, 15 and 6 hidden Markov model (HMM) profiles for E1s, E2s, E3s and DUBs at the family level, separately. Moreover, the ortholog searches were conducted for E3 and DUB families without HMM profiles. Then the UUCD database was developed with 738 E1s, 2937 E2s, 46 631 E3s and 6647 DUBs of 70 eukaryotic species. The detailed annotations and classifications were also provided. The online service of UUCD was implemented in PHP + MySQL + JavaScript + Perl.
PMCID: PMC3531133  PMID: 23172288
7.  The NEDD8 modification pathway in plants 
NEDD8, in plants and yeasts also known as RELATED TO UBIQUITIN (RUB), is an evolutionarily conserved 76 amino acid protein highly related to ubiquitin. Like ubiquitin, NEDD8 can be conjugated to and deconjugated from target proteins, but unlike ubiquitin, NEDD8 has not been reported to form chains similar to the different polymeric ubiquitin chains that have a role in a diverse set of cellular processes. NEDD8-modification is best known as a post-translational modification of the cullin subunits of cullin-RING E3 ubiquitin ligases. In this context, structural analyses have revealed that neddylation induces a conformation change of the cullin that brings the ubiquitylation substrates into proximity of the interacting E2 conjugating enzyme. In turn, NEDD8 deconjugation destabilizes the cullin RING ligase complex allowing for the exchange of substrate recognition subunits via the exchange factor CAND1. In plants, components of the neddylation and deneddylation pathway were identified based on mutants with defects in auxin and light responses and the characterization of these mutants has been instrumental for the elucidation of the neddylation pathway. More recently, there has been evidence from animal and plant systems that NEDD8 conjugation may also regulate the behavior or fate of non-cullin substrates in a number of ways. Here, the current knowledge on NEDD8 processing, conjugation and deconjugation is presented, where applicable, in the context of specific signaling pathways from plants.
PMCID: PMC3968751  PMID: 24711811
CAND1; COP9 signalosome (CSN); cullin; E3 ubiquitin ligase; F-BOX PROTEIN (FBP); NEDD8; RELATED TO UBIQUITIN (RUB); ubiquitin
8.  E3 ubiquitin ligase-mediated regulation of bone formation and tumorigenesis 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(1):e463-.
The ubiquitination–proteasome and degradation system is an essential process that regulates protein homeostasis. This system is involved in the regulation of cell proliferation, differentiation and survival, and dysregulations in this system lead to pathologies including cancers. The ubiquitination system is an enzymatic cascade that mediates the marking of target proteins by an ubiquitin label and thereby directs their degradation through the proteasome pathway. The ubiquitination of proteins occurs through a three-step process involving ubiquitin activation by the E1 enzyme, allowing for the transfer to a ubiquitin-conjugated enzyme E2 and to the targeted protein via ubiquitin-protein ligases (E3), the most abundant group of enzymes involved in ubiquitination. Significant advances have been made in our understanding of the role of E3 ubiquitin ligases in the control of bone turnover and tumorigenesis. These ligases are implicated in the regulation of bone cells through the degradation of receptor tyrosine kinases, signaling molecules and transcription factors. Initial studies showed that the E3 ubiquitin ligase c-Cbl, a multi-domain scaffold protein, regulates bone resorption by interacting with several molecules in osteoclasts. Further studies showed that c-Cbl controls the ubiquitination of signaling molecules in osteoblasts and in turn regulates osteoblast proliferation, differentiation and survival. Recent data indicate that c-Cbl expression is decreased in primary bone tumors, resulting in excessive receptor tyrosine kinase signaling. Consistently, c-Cbl ectopic expression reduces bone tumorigenesis by promoting tyrosine kinase receptor degradation. Here, we review the mechanisms of action of E3 ubiquitin ligases in the regulation of normal and pathologic bone formation, and we discuss how targeting the interactions of c-Cbl with some substrates may be a potential therapeutic strategy to promote osteogenesis and to reduce tumorigenesis.
PMCID: PMC3564004  PMID: 23328670
ubiquitin ligases; proteasome; receptor tyrosine kinases; bone tumors; Cbl proteins; ubiquitination
9.  The role of allostery in the ubiquitin-proteasome system 
The Ubiquitin-Proteasome System is involved in many cellular processes including protein degradation. Degradation of a protein via this system involves two successive steps: ubiquitination and degradation. Ubiquitination tags the target protein with ubiquitin-like proteins, such as ubiquitin, SUMO and NEDD8, via a cascade involving three enzymes: activating enzyme E1, conjugating enzyme E2, and E3 ubiquitin ligases. The proteasomes recognize the ubiquitin-like protein tagged substrate proteins and degrade them. Accumulating evidence indicates that allostery is a central player in the regulation of ubiquitination, as well as deubiquitination and degradation. Here, we provide an overview of the key mechanistic roles played by allostery in all steps of these processes, and highlight allosteric drugs targeting them. Throughout the review, we emphasize the crucial mechanistic role played by linkers in allosterically controlling the Ubiquitin-Proteasome System action by biasing the sampling of the conformational space, which facilitate the catalytic reactions of the ubiquitination and degradation. Finally, we propose that allostery may similarly play key roles in the regulation of molecular machines in the cell, and as such allosteric drugs can be expected to be increasingly exploited in therapeutic regimes.
PMCID: PMC3609921  PMID: 23234564
10.  E3 Ubiquitin Ligases as Cancer Targets and Biomarkers1 
Neoplasia (New York, N.Y.)  2006;8(8):645-654.
E3 ubiquitin ligases are a large family of proteins that are engaged in the regulation of the turnover and activity of many target proteins. Together with ubiquitin-activating enzyme E1 and ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme E2, E3 ubiquitin ligases catalyze the ubiquitination of a variety of biologically significant protein substrates for targeted degradation through the 26S proteasome, as well as for nonproteolytic regulation of their functions or subcellular localizations. E3 ubiquitin ligases, therefore, play an essential role in the regulation of many biologic processes. Increasing amounts of evidence strongly suggest that the abnormal regulation of some E3 ligases is involved in cancer development. Furthermore, some E3 ubiquitin ligases are frequently overexpressed in human cancers, which correlates well with increased chemoresistance and poor clinic prognosis. In this review, E3 ubiquitin ligases (such as murine double minute 2, inhibitor of apoptosis protein, and Skp1-Cullin-F-box protein) will be evaluated as potential cancer drug targets and prognostic biomarkers. Extensive study in this field would lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanism by which E3 ligases regulate cellular processes and of how their deregulations contribute to carcinogenesis. This would eventually lead to the development of a novel class of anticancer drugs targeting specific E3 ubiquitin ligases, as well as the development of sensitive biomarkers for cancer treatment, diagnosis, and prognosis.
PMCID: PMC1601942  PMID: 16925947
Apoptosis; biomarkers; cancer targets; E3 ubiquitin ligases; protein degradation
11.  SCUD: Saccharomyces Cerevisiae Ubiquitination Database 
BMC Genomics  2008;9:440.
Ubiquitination is an important post-translational modification involved in diverse biological processes. Therefore, genomewide representation of the ubiquitination system for a species is important.
SCUD is a web-based database for the ubiquitination system in Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Baker's yeast). We first searched for all the known enzymes involved in the ubiquitination process in yeast, including E1, E2, E3, and deubiquitination enzymes. Then, ubiquitinated substrates were collected by literature search. Especially, E3 and deubiquitination enzymes are classified into classes and subclasses by their shared domains and unique functions. As a result, 42 different E3 enzymes were grouped into corresponding classes and subclasses, and 940 ubiquitinated substrates including mutant substrates were identified. All the enzyme and substrate information are interconnected by hyperlinks, which makes it easy to view the enzyme-specific ubiquitination information.
This database aims to represent a comprehensive yeast ubiquitination system, and is easily expandable with the further experimental data. We expect that this database will be useful for the research on the ubiquitination systems of other higher organisms.
SCUD is accessible at
PMCID: PMC2567349  PMID: 18811980
12.  A Strategy for Modulation of Enzymes in the Ubiquitin System 
Science (New York, N.Y.)  2013;339(6119):10.1126/science.1230161.
The ubiquitin system regulates virtually all aspects of cellular function. We report a method to target the myriad enzymes that govern ubiquitination of protein substrates. We used massively diverse combinatorial libraries of ubiquitin variants to develop inhibitors of four deubiquitinases (DUBs) and analyzed the DUB-inhibitor complexes with crystallography. We extended the selection strategy to the ubiquitin conjugating (E2) and ubiquitin ligase (E3) enzymes and found that ubiquitin variants can also enhance enzyme activity. Last, we showed that ubiquitin variants can bind selectively to ubiquitin-binding domains. Ubiquitin variants exhibit selective function in cells and thus enable orthogonal modulation of specific enzymatic steps in the ubiquitin system.
PMCID: PMC3815447  PMID: 23287719
13.  Functional and phylogenetic analysis of the ubiquitylation system in Caenorhabditis elegans: ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, ubiquitin-activating enzymes, and ubiquitin-like proteins 
Genome Biology  2001;3(1):research0002.1-research0002.15.
RNA interference experiments in Caenorhabditis elegans suggest functional overlap in many ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (UBCs). Phylogenetic analysis of C. elegans, Drosophila, and human genes implies that the numbers of UBCs increases with developmental complexity.
The eukaryotic ubiquitin-conjugation system sets the turnover rate of many proteins and includes activating enzymes (E1s), conjugating enzymes (UBCs/E2s), and ubiquitin-protein ligases (E3s), which are responsible for activation, covalent attachment and substrate recognition, respectively. There are also ubiquitin-like proteins with distinct functions, which require their own E1s and E2s for attachment. We describe the results of RNA interference (RNAi) experiments on the E1s, UBC/E2s and ubiquitin-like proteins in Caenorhabditis elegans. We also present a phylogenetic analysis of UBCs.
The C. elegans genome encodes 20 UBCs and three ubiquitin E2 variant proteins. RNAi shows that only four UBCs are essential for embryogenesis: LET-70 (UBC-2), a functional homolog of yeast Ubc4/5p, UBC-9, an ortholog of yeast Ubc9p, which transfers the ubiquitin-like modifier SUMO, UBC-12, an ortholog of yeast Ubc12p, which transfers the ubiquitin-like modifier Rub1/Nedd8, and UBC-14, an ortholog of Drosophila Courtless. RNAi of ubc-20, an ortholog of yeast UBC1, results in a low frequency of arrested larval development. A phylogenetic analysis of C. elegans, Drosophila and human UBCs shows that this protein family can be divided into 18 groups, 13 of which include members from all three species. The activating enzymes and the ubiquitin-like proteins NED-8 and SUMO are required for embryogenesis.
The number of UBC genes appears to increase with developmental complexity, and our results suggest functional overlap in many of these enzymes. The ubiquitin-like proteins NED-8 and SUMO and their corresponding activating enzymes are required for embryogenesis.
PMCID: PMC150449  PMID: 11806825
14.  The APC11 RING-H2 Finger Mediates E2-Dependent Ubiquitination 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2000;11(7):2315-2325.
Polyubiquitination marks proteins for degradation by the 26S proteasome and is carried out by a cascade of enzymes that includes ubiquitin-activating enzymes (E1s), ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s), and ubiquitin ligases (E3s). The anaphase-promoting complex or cyclosome (APC/C) comprises a multisubunit ubiquitin ligase that mediates mitotic progression. Here, we provide evidence that the Saccharomyces cerevisiae RING-H2 finger protein Apc11 defines the minimal ubiquitin ligase activity of the APC. We found that the integrity of the Apc11p RING-H2 finger was essential for budding yeast cell viability, Using purified, recombinant proteins we showed that Apc11p interacted directly with the Ubc4 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme (E2). Furthermore, purified Apc11p was capable of mediating E1- and E2-dependent ubiquitination of protein substrates, including Clb2p, in vitro. The ability of Apc11p to act as an E3 was dependent on the integrity of the RING-H2 finger, but did not require the presence of the cullin-like APC subunit Apc2p. We suggest that Apc11p is responsible for recruiting E2s to the APC and for mediating the subsequent transfer of ubiquitin to APC substrates in vivo.
PMCID: PMC14921  PMID: 10888670
15.  Structure of a RING E3 ligase and ubiquitin-loaded E2 primed for catalysis 
Nature  2012;489(7414):115-120.
Ubiquitin modification is mediated by a large family of specificity determining ubiquitin E3 ligases. To facilitate ubiquitin transfer, RING E3 ligases bind both substrate and a ubiquitin E2 conjugating enzyme linked to ubiquitin via a thioester bond, but the mechanism of transfer has remained elusive. Here we report the crystal structure of the dimeric RING of RNF4 in complex with E2 (UbcH5a) linked by an isopeptide bond to ubiquitin. While the E2 contacts a single protomer of the RING, ubiquitin is folded back onto the E2 by contacts from both RING protomers. The C-terminal tail of ubiquitin is locked into an active site groove on the E2 by an intricate network of interactions, resulting in changes at the E2 active site. This arrangement is primed for catalysis as it can deprotonate the incoming substrate lysine residue and stabilise the consequent tetrahedral transition state intermediate.
PMCID: PMC3442243  PMID: 22842904
16.  Multimodal activation of the ubiquitin ligase SCF by Nedd8 conjugation 
Molecular cell  2008;32(1):21-31.
Conjugation of ubiquitin-like protein Nedd8 to cullin (i.e. neddylation) is essential for the function of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases (CRLs). Here we show that neddylation stimulates recruitment of ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) esterified with ubiquitin (E2~Ub), helps bridge the ~50 Å gap between E2 and substrate bound to SCF to enable their reaction, and facilitates formation of amide bonds in E2's active site. Together, these effects potently stimulate transfer of ubiquitin to substrate. We propose that the initiator ubiquitin spans the gap, and the impact of neddylation on transfer of subsequent ubiquitins by the E2 Cdc34 arises from improved E2 recruitment and enhanced amide bond formation in the E2 active site. The combined effects of neddylation greatly enhance the probability that a substrate molecule acquires ≥4 ubiquitins in a single encounter with a CRL. The surprisingly diverse effects of Nedd8 conjugation underscore the complexity of CRL regulation and suggest that modification of other ubiquitin ligases with ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins may likewise have major functional consequences.
PMCID: PMC2644375  PMID: 18851830
17.  Mutations in the Hydrophobic Core of Ubiquitin Differentially Affect its Recognition by Receptor Proteins 
Journal of molecular biology  2007;375(4):979-996.
Ubiquitin is one of the most highly conserved signaling proteins in eukaryotes. In carrying out its myriad functions, ubiquitin conjugated to substrate proteins interacts with dozens of different receptor proteins that link the ubiquitin signal to various biological outcomes. Here, we report mutations in conserved residues of ubiquitin’s hydrophobic core that have surprisingly potent and specific effects on molecular recognition. Mutant ubiquitins bind tightly to the ubiquitin-associated (UBA) domain of the receptor proteins Rad23 and hHR23A, but fail to bind the ubiquitin-interacting motif (UIM) present in the receptors Rpn10 and S5a. Moreover, chains assembled on target substrates with mutant ubiquitins are unable to support substrate degradation by the proteasome in vitro, or sustain viability of yeast cells. The mutations have relatively little effect on ubiquitin’s overall structure but reduce its rigidity and cause a slight displacement of the C-terminal β-sheet, thereby compromising association with UIM but not UBA domains. These studies emphasize an unexpected role for ubiquitin’s core in molecular recognition, and suggest that the diversity of protein-protein interactions in which ubiquitin engages placed enormous constraints on its evolvability.
PMCID: PMC2254529  PMID: 18054791
ubiquitin; proteasomal degradation; ubiquitin receptors; molecular recognition; hydrophobic core mutation
18.  The E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch in T cell activation, differentiation, and tolerance 
Seminars in immunology  2007;19(3):197-205.
Tagging a small molecule ubiquitin to a protein substrate, or protein ubiquitination, plays an important role in the immune responses. This process is catalyzed by a cascade of enzymatic reactions, with the E3 ubiquitin ligases being the critical enzymes that determine the specificity of substrate recognition. The E3 ligase Itch was identified from a mutant mouse which displays skin scratching and abnormal immune disorders. In the past few years, much progress has been made in our understanding of Itch-promoted protein ubiquitination, modulation of its ligase activity by upstream kinases, and the kinase-ligase interaction in T cell differentiation and tolerance induction.
PMCID: PMC2680672  PMID: 17433711
Itch; ubiquitin; E3 ligase; T helper type 2; Jun proteins; anergy; asthma
19.  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
20.  Ubiquitin in Motion: Structural studies of the E2~Ub conjugate 
Biochemistry  2011;50(10):1624-1633.
Ubiquitination of proteins provides a powerful and versatile post-translational signal in the eukaryotic cell. The formation of a thioester bond between ubiquitin (Ub) and the active site of a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) is critical for Ub transfer to substrates. Assembly of a functional ubiquitin ligase (E3) complex poised for Ub transfer involves recognition and binding of an E2~Ub conjugate. Therefore, full characterization of the structure and dynamics of E2~Ub conjugates is required for further mechanistic understanding of Ub transfer reactions. Here we present characterization of the dynamic behavior of E2~Ub conjugates of two human enzymes, UbcH5c~Ub and Ubc13~Ub, in solution as determined by NMR and SAXS. Within each conjugate, Ub retains great flexibility with respect to the E2, indicative of highly dynamic species that adopt manifold orientations. The population distribution of Ub conformations is dictated by the identity of the E2: UbcH5c~Ub populates an array of extended conformations and the population of Ubc13~Ub conjugates favors a closed conformation in which the hydrophobic surface of Ub faces Helix 2 of Ubc13. We propose that the varied conformations adopted by Ub represent available binding modes of the E2~Ub species and thus provide insight into the diverse E2~Ub protein interactome, particularly regarding interaction with Ub ligases.
PMCID: PMC3056393  PMID: 21226485
ubiquitin; ubiquitin conjugating enzyme; ubiquitination; UbcH5; Ubc13; NMR; spin label; SAXS
21.  Catalysis of lysine 48-specific ubiquitin chain assembly by residues in E2 and ubiquitin 
Molecular cell  2010;39(4):548-559.
Protein ubiquitination is catalyzed by ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) in collaboration with ubiquitin-protein ligases (E3s). This process depends on nucleophilic attack by a substrate lysine on a thioester bond linking the C-terminus of ubiquitin to a cysteine in the E2 active site. Different E2 family members display specificity for lysines in distinct contexts. We addressed the mechanistic basis for this lysine selectivity in Ubc1, an E2 that catalyzes the ubiquitination of lysine 48 (K48) in ubiquitin, leading to the formation of K48-linked polyubiquitin chains. We identified a cluster of polar residues near the Ubc1 active site, as well as a residue in ubiquitin itself, that are required for catalysis of K48-specific ubiquitin ligation but not for general activity toward other lysines. Our results suggest that the active site of Ubc1, as well as the surface of ubiquitin, contain specificity determinants that channel specific lysines to the central residues involved directly in catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2929935  PMID: 20797627
22.  Substrates of IAP ubiquitin ligases identified with a designed orthogonal E3 ligase, the NEDDylator 
Molecular cell  2012;49(2):273-282.
Inhibitors of Apoptosis Proteins (IAPs) are guardian ubiquitin ligases that keep classic pro-apoptotic proteins in check. Systematic identification of additional IAP substrates is challenged by the heterogeneity and sheer number of ubiquitinated proteins (>5000). Here we report a powerful catalytic tagging tool, the NEDDylator, which fuses a NEDD8 E2 conjugating enzyme, Ubc12, to the ubiquitin ligase, XIAP or cIAP1. This permits transfer of the rare ubiquitin homolog NEDD8 to the ubiquitin E3 substrates allowing them to be efficiently purified for LC/MS/MS identification. We have identified >50 potential IAP substrates of both cytosolic and mitochondrial origin that bear hallmark N-terminal IAP binding motifs. These substrates include the recently discovered protein phosphatase, PGAM5, which we show is proteolytically processed, accumulates in cytosol during apoptosis, and sensitizes cells to death. These studies reveal mechanisms and antagonistic partners for specific IAPs, and provide a powerful technology for labeling binding partners in transient protein-protein complexes.
PMCID: PMC3557559  PMID: 23201124
23.  Ubiquitin charging of human class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes triggers their nuclear import 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;167(4):649-659.
Ubiquitin is a small polypeptide that is conjugated to proteins and commonly serves as a degradation signal. The attachment of ubiquitin (Ub) to a substrate proceeds through a multi-enzyme cascade involving an activating enzyme (E1), a conjugating enzyme (E2), and a protein ligase (E3). We previously demonstrated that a murine E2, UbcM2, is imported into nuclei by the transport receptor importin-11. We now show that the import mechanism for UbcM2 and two other human class III E2s (UbcH6 and UBE2E2) uniquely requires the covalent attachment of Ub to the active site cysteine of these enzymes. This coupling of E2 activation and transport arises from the selective interaction of importin-11 with the Ub-loaded forms of these enzymes. Together, these findings reveal that Ub charging can function as a nuclear import trigger, and identify a novel link between E2 regulation and karyopherin-mediated transport.
PMCID: PMC2172591  PMID: 15545318
24.  Functional Diversity and Structural Disorder in the Human Ubiquitination Pathway 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e65443.
The ubiquitin-proteasome system plays a central role in cellular regulation and protein quality control (PQC). The system is built as a pyramid of increasing complexity, with two E1 (ubiquitin activating), few dozen E2 (ubiquitin conjugating) and several hundred E3 (ubiquitin ligase) enzymes. By collecting and analyzing E3 sequences from the KEGG BRITE database and literature, we assembled a coherent dataset of 563 human E3s and analyzed their various physical features. We found an increase in structural disorder of the system with multiple disorder predictors (IUPred – E1: 5.97%, E2: 17.74%, E3: 20.03%). E3s that can bind E2 and substrate simultaneously (single subunit E3, ssE3) have significantly higher disorder (22.98%) than E3s in which E2 binding (multi RING-finger, mRF, 0.62%), scaffolding (6.01%) and substrate binding (adaptor/substrate recognition subunits, 17.33%) functions are separated. In ssE3s, the disorder was localized in the substrate/adaptor binding domains, whereas the E2-binding RING/HECT-domains were structured. To demonstrate the involvement of disorder in E3 function, we applied normal modes and molecular dynamics analyses to show how a disordered and highly flexible linker in human CBL (an E3 that acts as a regulator of several tyrosine kinase-mediated signalling pathways) facilitates long-range conformational changes bringing substrate and E2-binding domains towards each other and thus assisting in ubiquitin transfer. E3s with multiple interaction partners (as evidenced by data in STRING) also possess elevated levels of disorder (hubs, 22.90% vs. non-hubs, 18.36%). Furthermore, a search in PDB uncovered 21 distinct human E3 interactions, in 7 of which the disordered region of E3s undergoes induced folding (or mutual induced folding) in the presence of the partner. In conclusion, our data highlights the primary role of structural disorder in the functions of E3 ligases that manifests itself in the substrate/adaptor binding functions as well as the mechanism of ubiquitin transfer by long-range conformational transitions.
PMCID: PMC3667038  PMID: 23734257
25.  The Ubiquitin-Proteasome System and F-box Proteins in Pathogenic Fungi 
Mycobiology  2011;39(4):243-248.
The ubiquitin-proteasome system is one of the major protein turnover mechanisms that plays important roles in the regulation of a variety of cellular functions. It is composed of E1 (ubiquitin-activating enzyme), E2 (ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme), and E3 ubiquitin ligases that transfer ubiquitin to the substrates that are subjected to degradation in the 26S proteasome. The Skp1, Cullin, F-box protein (SCF) E3 ligases are the largest E3 gene family, in which the F-box protein is the key component to determine substrate specificity. Although the SCF E3 ligase and its F-box proteins have been extensively studied in the model yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, only limited studies have been reported on the role of F-box proteins in other fungi. Recently, a number of studies revealed that F-box proteins are required for fungal pathogenicity. In this communication, we review the current understanding of F-box proteins in pathogenic fungi.
PMCID: PMC3385136  PMID: 22783111
Cryptococcus neoformans; E3 ligase; F-box; Fungi; Virulence

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