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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  Structural Basis for the Ubiquitin-Linkage Specificity and deISGylating Activity of SARS-CoV Papain-Like Protease 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(5):e1004113.
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) encodes a papain-like protease (PLpro) with both deubiquitinating (DUB) and deISGylating activities that are proposed to counteract the post-translational modification of signaling molecules that activate the innate immune response. Here we examine the structural basis for PLpro's ubiquitin chain and interferon stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) specificity. We present the X-ray crystal structure of PLpro in complex with ubiquitin-aldehyde and model the interaction of PLpro with other ubiquitin-chain and ISG15 substrates. We show that PLpro greatly prefers K48- to K63-linked ubiquitin chains, and ISG15-based substrates to those that are mono-ubiquitinated. We propose that PLpro's higher affinity for K48-linked ubiquitin chains and ISG15 stems from a bivalent mechanism of binding, where two ubiquitin-like domains prefer to bind in the palm domain of PLpro with the most distal ubiquitin domain interacting with a “ridge” region of the thumb domain. Mutagenesis of residues within this ridge region revealed that these mutants retain viral protease activity and the ability to catalyze hydrolysis of mono-ubiquitin. However, a select number of these mutants have a significantly reduced ability to hydrolyze the substrate ISG15-AMC, or be inhibited by K48-linked diubuiquitin. For these latter residues, we found that PLpro antagonism of the nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B-cells (NFκB) signaling pathway is abrogated. This identification of key and unique sites in PLpro required for recognition and processing of diubiquitin and ISG15 versus mono-ubiquitin and protease activity provides new insight into ubiquitin-chain and ISG15 recognition and highlights a role for PLpro DUB and deISGylase activity in antagonism of the innate immune response.
Author Summary
All coronaviruses such as the SARS virus and the recently identified Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) virus encode in their genomes at least one papain-like protease (PLpro) enzyme that has two distinct functions in viral pathogenesis. The first function is to process the viral polyprotein into individual proteins that are essential for viral replication. The second function is to remove ubiquitin and ISG15 proteins from host cell proteins, which likely helps coronaviruses short circuit the host's innate immune response. The 3-dimensional structure of SARS virus PLpro in complex with a human ubiquitin analog was determined and reveals how coronavirus PLpro enzymes strip ubiquitin and ISG15 from host cell proteins at the molecular level. A series of amino acid residues involved in interactions between PLpro and ubiquitin were mutated to identify which interactions are important only for the recognition of ubiquitin and ISG15 modified proteins by PLpro and not for recognition and cleaving of the viral polyprotein. The 3D structure of SARS PLpro with ubiquitin-aldehyde sheds significant new light into how PLpro interacts with ubiquitin-like molecules and provides a molecular road map for performing similar studies on other deadly coronaviruses such as MERS.
PMCID: PMC4031219  PMID: 24854014
6.  Identification, Analysis and Prediction of Protein Ubiquitination Sites 
Proteins  2010;78(2):365-380.
Ubiquitination plays an important role in many cellular processes and is implicated in many diseases. Experimental identification of ubiquitination sites is challenging due to rapid turnover of ubiquitinated proteins and the large size of the ubiquitin modifier. We identified 141 new ubiquitination sites using a combination of liquid chromatography, mass spectrometry and mutant yeast strains. Investigation of the sequence biases and structural preferences around known ubiquitination sites indicated that their properties were similar to those of intrinsically disordered protein regions. Using a combined set of new and previously known ubiquitination sites, we developed a random forest predictor of ubiquitination sites, UbPred. The class-balanced accuracy of UbPred reached 72%, with the area under the ROC curve at 80%. The application of UbPred showed that high confidence Rsp5 ubiquitin ligase substrates and proteins with very short half-lives were significantly enriched in the number of predicted ubiquitination sites. Proteome-wide prediction of ubiquitination sites in Saccharomyces cerevisiae indicated that highly ubiquitinated substrates were prevalent among transcription/enzyme regulators and proteins involved in cell cycle control. In the human proteome, cytoskeletal, cell cycle, regulatory and cancer-associated proteins display higher extent of ubiquitination than proteins from other functional categories. We show that gain and loss of predicted ubiquitination sites may likely represent a molecular mechanism behind a number of disease-associated mutations. UbPred is available at
PMCID: PMC3006176  PMID: 19722269
UbPred; protein ubiquitination sites; prediction; post-translational modification; intrinsically disordered protein; unstructured; disordered
7.  Terminating protein ubiquitination 
Cell Cycle  2011;10(18):3067-3071.
Ubiquitination is a post-translational modification that generally directs proteins for degradation by the proteasome or by lysosomes. However, ubiquitination has been implicated in many other cellular processes, including transcriptional regulation, DNA repair, regulation of protein-protein interactions and association with ubiquitin-binding scaffolds. Ubiquitination is a dynamic process. Ubiquitin is added to proteins by E3 ubiquitin ligases as a covalent modification to one or multiple lysine residues as well as non-lysine amino acids. Ubiquitin itself contains seven lysines, each of which can also be ubiquitinated, leading to polyubiquitin chains that are best characterized for linkages occurring through K48 and K63. Ubiquitination can also be reversed by the action of deubiquitination enzymes (DUbs). Like E3 ligases, DUbs play diverse and critical roles in cells.1 Ubiquitin is expressed as a fusion protein, as a linear repeat or as a fusion to ribosomal subunits, and DUbs are necessary to liberate free ubiquitin, making them the first enzyme of the ubiquitin cascade. Proteins destined for degradation by the proteasome or by lysosomes are deubiquitinated prior to their degradation, which allows ubiquitin to be recycled by the cell, contributing to the steady-state pool of free ubiquitin. Proteins destined for degradation by lysosomes are also acted upon by both ligases and DUbs. Deubiquitination can also act as a means to prevent protein degradation, and many proteins are thought to undergo rounds of ubiquitination and deubiquitination, ultimately resulting in either the degradation or stabilization of those proteins. Despite years of study, examining the effects of the ubiquitination of proteins remains quite challenging. This is because the methods that are currently being employed to study ubiquitination are limiting. Here, we briefly examine current strategies to study the effects of ubiquitination and describe an additional novel approach that we have developed.
PMCID: PMC3685619  PMID: 21926471
ubiquitin; endosome; ligase; lysosome; degradation
8.  DNA Damage Regulates Translation through β-TRCP Targeting of CReP 
PLoS Genetics  2015;11(6):e1005292.
The Skp1-Cul1-F box complex (SCF) associates with any one of a number of F box proteins, which serve as substrate binding adaptors. The human F box protein βTRCP directs the conjugation of ubiquitin to a variety of substrate proteins, leading to the destruction of the substrate by the proteasome. To identify βTRCP substrates, we employed a recently-developed technique, called Ligase Trapping, wherein a ubiquitin ligase is fused to a ubiquitin-binding domain to “trap” ubiquitinated substrates. 88% of the candidate substrates that we examined were bona fide substrates, comprising twelve previously validated substrates, eleven new substrates and three false positives. One βTRCP substrate, CReP, is a Protein Phosphatase 1 (PP1) specificity subunit that targets the translation initiation factor eIF2α to promote the removal of a stress-induced inhibitory phosphorylation and increase cap-dependent translation. We found that CReP is targeted by βTRCP for degradation upon DNA damage. Using a stable CReP allele, we show that depletion of CReP is required for the full induction of eIF2α phosphorylation upon DNA damage, and contributes to keeping the levels of translation low as cells recover from DNA damage.
Author Summary
Approximately 600 human genes encode enzymes that act as ubiquitin ligases, which facilitate the transfer of the small protein ubiquitin to thousands of substrate proteins; “tagging” with ubiquitin often promotes the degradation of the substrate by the proteasome. In this paper, we adapt a technique called Ligase Trapping for use in mammalian cells. Ligase Trapping is a highly accurate method for determining which substrates are targeted by a ubiquitin ligase. Here we use it to identify new substrates of the human cell cycle regulator βTRCP. Our screen was indeed highly accurate, as we were able to validate 88% of the candidate substrates we identified by mass spectrometry. Some of these new substrates were unstable proteins that were stabilized by inhibition of βTRCP, or of the entire class of ubiquitin ligases of which βTRCP is a part. However, others appear to be stable or redundantly-targeted substrates, which have been more difficult to identify with current techniques. This suggests that Ligase Trapping will be able to reliably identify new substrates of human ubiquitin ligases. Further, one of the new βTRCP substrates, CReP, is specifically depleted upon DNA damage, and depletion of CReP contributes to inactivation of the translational machinery upon DNA damage.
PMCID: PMC4474599  PMID: 26091241
9.  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
10.  UUCD: a family-based database of ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like conjugation 
Nucleic Acids Research  2012;41(Database issue):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
11.  Regulation of Proteolysis by Human Deubiquitinating Enzymes 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1843(1):10.1016/j.bbamcr.2013.06.027.
The post-translational attachment of one or several ubiquitin molecules to a protein generates a variety of targeting signals that are used in many different ways in the cell. Ubiquitination can alter the activity, localization, protein-protein interactions or stability of the targeted protein. Further, a very large number of proteins are subject to regulation by ubiquitin-dependent processes, meaning that virtually all cellular functions are impacted by these pathways. Nearly a hundred enzymes from five different gene families (the deubiquitinating enzymes or DUBs), reverse this modification by hydrolyzing the (iso)peptide bond tethering ubiquitin to itself or the target protein. Four of these families are thiol proteases and one is a metalloprotease. DUBs of the Ubiquitin C-terminal Hydrolase (UCH) family act on small molecule adducts of ubiquitin, process the ubiquitin proprotein, and trim ubiquitin from the distal end of a polyubiquitin chain. Ubiquitin Specific Proteases (USP) tend to recognize and encounter their substrates by interaction of the variable regions of their sequence with the substrate protein directly, or with scaffolds or substrate adapters in multiprotein complexes. Ovarian Tumor (OTU) domain DUBs show remarkable specificity for different Ub chain linkages and may have evolved to recognize substrates on the basis of those linkages. The Josephin family of DUBs may specialize in distinguishing between polyubiquitin chains of different lengths. Finally, the JAB1/MPN+/MOV34 (JAMM) domain metalloproteases cleave the isopeptide bond near the attachment point of polyubiquitin and substrate, as well as being highly specific for the K63 poly-Ub linkage. These DUBs regulate proteolysis by: directly interacting with and co-regulating E3 ligases; altering the level of substrate ubiquitination; hydrolyzing or remodeling ubiquitinated and poly-ubiquitinated substrates; acting in specific locations in the cell and altering the localization of the target protein; and acting on proteasome bound substrates to facilitate or inhibit proteolysis. Thus, the scope and regulation of the ubiquitin pathway is very similar to that of phosphorylation, with the DUBs serving the same functions as the phosphatase.
PMCID: PMC3833951  PMID: 23845989
Deubiquitinating enzyme; Ubiquitin; Poly-Ubiquitin; Proteolysis; Regulation
12.  A Global Census of Fission Yeast Deubiquitinating Enzyme Localization and Interaction Networks Reveals Distinct Compartmentalization Profiles and Overlapping Functions in Endocytosis and Polarity 
PLoS Biology  2010;8(9):e1000471.
Proteomic, localization, and enzymatic activity screens in fission yeast reveal how deubiquitinating enzyme localization and function are tuned.
Ubiquitination and deubiquitination are reciprocal processes that tune protein stability, function, and/or localization. The removal of ubiquitin and remodeling of ubiquitin chains is catalyzed by deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs), which are cysteine proteases or metalloproteases. Although ubiquitination has been extensively studied for decades, the complexity of cellular roles for deubiquitinating enzymes has only recently been explored, and there are still several gaps in our understanding of when, where, and how these enzymes function to modulate the fate of polypeptides. To address these questions we performed a systematic analysis of the 20 Schizosaccharomyces pombe DUBs using confocal microscopy, proteomics, and enzymatic activity assays. Our results reveal that S. pombe DUBs are present in almost all cell compartments, and the majority are part of stable protein complexes essential for their function. Interestingly, DUB partners identified by our study include the homolog of a putative tumor suppressor gene not previously linked to the ubiquitin pathway, and two conserved tryptophan-aspartate (WD) repeat proteins that regulate Ubp9, a DUB that we show participates in endocytosis, actin dynamics, and cell polarity. In order to understand how DUB activity affects these processes we constructed multiple DUB mutants and find that a quintuple deletion of ubp4 ubp5 ubp9 ubp15 sst2/amsh displays severe growth, polarity, and endocytosis defects. This mutant allowed the identification of two common substrates for five cytoplasmic DUBs. Through these studies, a common regulatory theme emerged in which DUB localization and/or activity is modulated by interacting partners. Despite apparently distinct cytoplasmic localization patterns, several DUBs cooperate in regulating endocytosis and cell polarity. These studies provide a framework for dissecting DUB signaling pathways in S. pombe and may shed light on DUB functions in metazoans.
Author Summary
The post-translational modification of proteins by conjugation of monomers or chains of ubiquitin is a regulatory mechanism for tuning protein stability, localization and function. Given these vital functions, ubiquitination has to be highly regulated so that protein degradation and cell signaling are controlled in space and time. Although the ubiquitin-conjugation machinery has been thoroughly studied, there are still several gaps in our understanding of when, where and how ubiquitin is removed by deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs). To address these questions we performed a systematic analysis of the 20 DUBs in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe using confocal microscopy, proteomics and enzymatic activity assays. We first showed that S. pombe DUBs are present in almost all cell compartments and that the majority are part of stable protein complexes essential for their function. Then, we constructed strains mutant for a number of the DUBs involved in the newly identified protein complexes and showed that five cytoplasmic DUBs have redundant roles in controlling endocytosis and cell polarity. We postulate that regulatory networks identified in our study might be conserved and hence shed light on DUB function in metazoans.
PMCID: PMC2935449  PMID: 20838651
13.  Intrinsic disorder drives N-terminal ubiquitination by Ube2w 
Nature chemical biology  2014;11(1):83-89.
Ubiquitination of the αN-terminus of protein substrates has been reported sporadically over the past twenty years. However the identity of an enzyme responsible for this unique ubiquitin (Ub) modification has only recently been elucidated. We show the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2) Ube2w employs a novel mechanism to facilitate the specific ubiquitination of the α-amino group of its substrates that involves recognition of backbone atoms of intrinsically disordered N-termini. We present the NMR-based solution ensemble of full-length Ube2w that reveals a structural architecture unlike any other E2, in which its C-terminus is partly disordered and flexible to accommodate variable substrate N-termini. Flexibility of the substrate is critical for recognition by Ube2w and point mutations in, or removal of, the flexible C-terminus of Ube2w inhibits substrate binding and modification. Mechanistic insights reported here provide guiding principles for future efforts to define the N-terminal-Ubiquitome in cells.
PMCID: PMC4270946  PMID: 25436519
14.  DUB-resistant ubiquitin to survey ubiquitination switches in mammalian cells 
Cell reports  2013;5(3):826-838.
The ubiquitin-modification status of proteins in cells is highly dynamic and maintained by specific ligation machineries (E3 ligases) that tag proteins with ubiquitin or by deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs) that remove the ubiquitin tag. The development of tools that offset this balance is critical in characterizing signaling pathways that utilize such ubiquitination switches. Herein, we generated a DUB-resistant ubiquitin mutant that is recalcitrant to cleavage by various families of DUBs both in vitro and in mammalian cells. As a proof of principle experiment, ectopic expression of the uncleavable ubiquitin stabilized mono-ubiquitinated PCNA in the absence of DNA damage, and also revealed a defect in the clearance of the DNA damage response at unprotected telomeres. Importantly, a proteomic survey using the uncleavable ubiquitin identified previously unknown ubiquitinated substrates, validating the DUB-resistant ubiquitin expression system as a valuable tool to interrogate cell signaling pathways.
PMCID: PMC3889155  PMID: 24210823
deubiquitination; DUBs; PCNA; ubiquitin; DUB-resistant; TRF2
15.  Ubiquitin-Independent Proteasomal Degradation 
Biochimica et biophysica acta  2013;1843(1):10.1016/j.bbamcr.2013.05.008.
Most proteasome substrates are marked for degradation by ubiquitin conjugation, but some are targeted by other means. The properties of these exceptional cases provide insights into the general requirements for proteasomal degradation. Here the focus is on three ubiquitin-independent substrates that have been the subject of detailed study. These are Rpn4, a transcriptional regulator of proteasome homeostasis, thymidylate synthase, an enzyme required for production of DNA precursors and ornithine decarboxylase, the initial enzyme committed to polyamine biosynthesis. It can be inferred from these cases that proteasome association and the presence of an unstructured region are the sole prerequisites for degradation. Based on that inference, artificial substrates have been designed to test the proteasome's capacity for substrate processing and its limitations. Ubiquitin-independent substrates may in some cases be a remnant of the pre-ubiquitome world, but in other cases could provide optimized regulatory solutions.
PMCID: PMC3770795  PMID: 23684952
16.  Ubiquitination of Plant Immune Receptors 
Ubiquitin is a highly conserved regulatory protein consisting of 76 amino acids and ubiquitously expressed in all eukaryotic cells. The reversible ubiquitin conjugation to a wide variety of target proteins, a process known as ubiquitination or ubiquitylation, serves as one of the most important and prevalent post-translational modifications to regulate the myriad actions of protein cellular functions, including protein degradation, vesicle trafficking and subcellular localization. Protein ubiquitination is an ATP-dependent stepwise covalent attachment of one or more ubiquitin molecules to target proteins mediated by a hierarchical enzymatic cascade consisting of an E1 ubiquitin-activating enzyme, E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme and E3 ubiquitin-ligase. The plant plasma membrane resident receptor-like kinase Flagellin Sensing 2 (FLS2) recognizes bacterial flagellin and initiates innate immune signaling to defend against pathogen attacks. We have recently shown that two plant U-box E3 ubiquitin-ligases PUB12 and PUB13 directly ubiquitinate FLS2 and promote flagellin-induced FLS2 degradation, which in turn attenuates FLS2 signaling to prevent excessive or prolonged activation of immune responses. Here, we use FLS2 as an example to describe a protocol for detection of protein ubiquitination in plant cells in vivo and in test tubes in vitro. In addition, we elaborate the approach to identify different types of ubiquitin linkages by using various lysine mutants of ubiquitin. The various in vivo and in vitro ubiquitination assays will provide researchers with the tools to address how ubiquitination regulates diverse cellular functions of target proteins.
PMCID: PMC4391743  PMID: 25117287
Ubiquitin; Ubiquitination; Polyubiquitin chain; Immunoblot; Immunoprecipitation (IP)
17.  Epstein-Barr Virus Large Tegument Protein BPLF1 Contributes to Innate Immune Evasion through Interference with Toll-Like Receptor Signaling 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(2):e1003960.
Viral infection triggers an early host response through activation of pattern recognition receptors, including Toll-like receptors (TLR). TLR signaling cascades induce production of type I interferons and proinflammatory cytokines involved in establishing an anti-viral state as well as in orchestrating ensuing adaptive immunity. To allow infection, replication, and persistence, (herpes)viruses employ ingenious strategies to evade host immunity. The human gamma-herpesvirus Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a large, enveloped DNA virus persistently carried by more than 90% of adults worldwide. It is the causative agent of infectious mononucleosis and is associated with several malignant tumors. EBV activates TLRs, including TLR2, TLR3, and TLR9. Interestingly, both the expression of and signaling by TLRs is attenuated during productive EBV infection. Ubiquitination plays an important role in regulating TLR signaling and is controlled by ubiquitin ligases and deubiquitinases (DUBs). The EBV genome encodes three proteins reported to exert in vitro deubiquitinase activity. Using active site-directed probes, we show that one of these putative DUBs, the conserved herpesvirus large tegument protein BPLF1, acts as a functional DUB in EBV-producing B cells. The BPLF1 enzyme is expressed during the late phase of lytic EBV infection and is incorporated into viral particles. The N-terminal part of the large BPLF1 protein contains the catalytic site for DUB activity and suppresses TLR-mediated activation of NF-κB at, or downstream of, the TRAF6 signaling intermediate. A catalytically inactive mutant of this EBV protein did not reduce NF-κB activation, indicating that DUB activity is essential for attenuating TLR signal transduction. Our combined results show that EBV employs deubiquitination of signaling intermediates in the TLR cascade as a mechanism to counteract innate anti-viral immunity of infected hosts.
Author Summary
Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is a human herpesvirus that persistently infects >90% of adults worldwide. One factor underlying the ability of EBV to establish such widespread and lifelong infections is its capacity to escape elimination by the human immune system. Among the first lines of defense against viral infection is the human Toll-like receptor (TLR) system. These receptors can detect the presence of viruses and initiate an intracellular protein signaling cascade that leads to the expression of immune response genes. The activation status of many proteins in this signaling cascade is regulated by the addition of ubiquitin tags. EBV has previously been reported to encode enzymes, called deubiquitinases (DUBs), which are capable of removing such ubiquitin tags from substrate proteins. In our study, we found that one of these enzymes, BPLF1, functions as an active DUB during EBV production in infected cells before being packaged into newly produced viral particles. Furthermore, our study provides insight into the way in which EBV can subvert the human immune response, as we show that BPLF1 can remove ubiquitin tags from proteins in the TLR signaling cascade. This inhibits TLR signaling and decreases the expression of immune response genes.
PMCID: PMC3930590  PMID: 24586164
18.  Hedgehog-Regulated Ubiquitination Controls Smoothened Trafficking and Cell Surface Expression in Drosophila 
PLoS Biology  2012;10(1):e1001239.
Hedgehog transduces signal by promoting cell surface expression of the seven-transmembrane protein Smoothened (Smo) in Drosophila, but the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Here we demonstrate that Smo is downregulated by ubiquitin-mediated endocytosis and degradation, and that Hh increases Smo cell surface expression by inhibiting its ubiquitination. We find that Smo is ubiquitinated at multiple Lysine residues including those in its autoinhibitory domain (SAID), leading to endocytosis and degradation of Smo by both lysosome- and proteasome-dependent mechanisms. Hh inhibits Smo ubiquitination via PKA/CK1-mediated phosphorylation of SAID, leading to Smo cell surface accumulation. Inactivation of the ubiquitin activating enzyme Uba1 or perturbation of multiple components of the endocytic machinery leads to Smo accumulation and Hh pathway activation. In addition, we find that the non-visual β-arrestin Kurtz (Krz) interacts with Smo and acts in parallel with ubiquitination to downregulate Smo. Finally, we show that Smo ubiquitination is counteracted by the deubiquitinating enzyme UBPY/USP8. Gain and loss of UBPY lead to reciprocal changes in Smo cell surface expression. Taken together, our results suggest that ubiquitination plays a key role in the downregulation of Smo to keep Hh pathway activity off in the absence of the ligand, and that Hh-induced phosphorylation promotes Smo cell surface accumulation by inhibiting its ubiquitination, which contributes to Hh pathway activation.
Author Summary
The Hedgehog (Hh) family of secreted proteins governs cell growth and patterning in diverse species ranging from Drosophila to human. Hh signals across the cell surface membrane by regulating the subcellular location and conformation of a membrane protein called Smoothened (Smo). In Drosophila, Smo accumulates on the cell surface in response to Hh, whereas in the absence of Hh it is internalized and degraded. The molecular mechanisms that control this intracellular trafficking and degradation of Smo were unknown, but here we show that Smo is modified by attachment of several molecules of a small protein called ubiquitin, which tags it for internalization and degradation within the cell. Hh inhibits this ubiquitination of Smo by inducing another modification, phosphorylation, of its intracellular tail by two types of protein kinase enzymes. This loss of ubiquitination and gain of phosphorylation causes the accumulation of Smo at the cell surface. What's more, we find that another protein called Kurtz interacts with Smo and acts in parallel with the ubiquitination process to promote internalization of Smo, and that the deubiquitinating enzyme UBPY/USP8 counteracts ubiquitination of Smo to promote its cell surface accumulation. Our study demonstrates that reversible ubiquitination plays a key role in regulating Smo trafficking to and from the cell surface and thus it provides novel insights into the mechanism of Hh signaling from the outside to the inside of the cell.
PMCID: PMC3254653  PMID: 22253574
19.  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
20.  An in silico model of the ubiquitin-proteasome system that incorporates normal homeostasis and age-related decline 
BMC Systems Biology  2007;1:17.
The ubiquitin-proteasome system is responsible for homeostatic degradation of intact protein substrates as well as the elimination of damaged or misfolded proteins that might otherwise aggregate. During ageing there is a decline in proteasome activity and an increase in aggregated proteins. Many neurodegenerative diseases are characterised by the presence of distinctive ubiquitin-positive inclusion bodies in affected regions of the brain. These inclusions consist of insoluble, unfolded, ubiquitinated polypeptides that fail to be targeted and degraded by the proteasome. We are using a systems biology approach to try and determine the primary event in the decline in proteolytic capacity with age and whether there is in fact a vicious cycle of inhibition, with accumulating aggregates further inhibiting proteolysis, prompting accumulation of aggregates and so on. A stochastic model of the ubiquitin-proteasome system has been developed using the Systems Biology Mark-up Language (SBML). Simulations are carried out on the BASIS (Biology of Ageing e-Science Integration and Simulation) system and the model output is compared to experimental data wherein levels of ubiquitin and ubiquitinated substrates are monitored in cultured cells under various conditions. The model can be used to predict the effects of different experimental procedures such as inhibition of the proteasome or shutting down the enzyme cascade responsible for ubiquitin conjugation.
The model output shows good agreement with experimental data under a number of different conditions. However, our model predicts that monomeric ubiquitin pools are always depleted under conditions of proteasome inhibition, whereas experimental data show that monomeric pools were depleted in IMR-90 cells but not in ts20 cells, suggesting that cell lines vary in their ability to replenish ubiquitin pools and there is the need to incorporate ubiquitin turnover into the model. Sensitivity analysis of the model revealed which parameters have an important effect on protein turnover and aggregation kinetics.
We have developed a model of the ubiquitin-proteasome system using an iterative approach of model building and validation against experimental data. Using SBML to encode the model ensures that it can be easily modified and extended as more data become available. Important aspects to be included in subsequent models are details of ubiquitin turnover, models of autophagy, the inclusion of a pool of short-lived proteins and further details of the aggregation process.
PMCID: PMC1847462  PMID: 17408507
21.  Biochemical and Proteomic Analysis of Ubiquitination of Hsc70 and Hsp70 by the E3 Ligase CHIP 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(5):e0128240.
The E3 ubiquitin ligase CHIP is involved in protein triage, serving as a co-chaperone for refolding as well as catalyzing ubiquitination of substrates. CHIP functions with both the stress induced Hsp70 and constitutive Hsc70 chaperones, and also plays a role in maintaining their balance in the cell. When the chaperones carry no client proteins, CHIP catalyzes their polyubiquitination and subsequent proteasomal degradation. Although Hsp70 and Hsc70 are highly homologous in sequence and similar in structure, CHIP mediated ubiquitination promotes degradation of Hsp70 with a higher efficiency than for Hsc70. Here we report a detailed and systematic investigation to characterize if there are significant differences in the CHIP in vitro ubiquitination of human Hsp70 and Hsc70. Proteomic analysis by mass spectrometry revealed that only 12 of 39 detectable lysine residues were ubiquitinated by UbcH5a in Hsp70 and only 16 of 45 in Hsc70. The only conserved lysine identified as ubiquitinated in one but not the other heat shock protein was K159 in Hsc70. Ubiquitination assays with K-R ubiquitin mutants showed that multiple Ub chain types are formed and that the distribution is different for Hsp70 versus Hsc70. CHIP ubiquitination with the E2 enzyme Ube2W is predominantly directed to the N-terminal amine of the substrate; however, some internal lysine modifications were also detected. Together, our results provide a detailed view of the differences in CHIP ubiquitination of these two very similar proteins, and show a clear example where substantial differences in ubiquitination can be generated by a single E3 ligase in response to not only different E2 enzymes but subtle differences in the substrate.
PMCID: PMC4444009  PMID: 26010904
22.  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
23.  An Acidic Loop and Cognate Phosphorylation Sites Define a Molecular Switch That Modulates Ubiquitin Charging Activity in Cdc34-Like Enzymes 
PLoS Computational Biology  2011;7(5):e1002056.
E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes are crucial mediators of protein ubiquitination, which strongly influence the ultimate fate of the target substrates. Recently, it has been shown that the activity of several enzymes of the ubiquitination pathway is finely tuned by phosphorylation, an ubiquitous mechanism for cellular regulation, which modulates protein conformation. In this contribution, we provide the first rationale, at the molecular level, of the regulatory mechanism mediated by casein kinase 2 (CK2) phosphorylation of E2 Cdc34-like enzymes. In particular, we identify two co-evolving signature elements in one of the larger families of E2 enzymes: an acidic insertion in β4α2 loop in the proximity of the catalytic cysteine and two conserved key serine residues within the catalytic domain, which are phosphorylated by CK2. Our investigations, using yeast Cdc34 as a model, through 2.5 µs molecular dynamics simulations and biochemical assays, define these two elements as an important phosphorylation-controlled switch that modulates opening and closing of the catalytic cleft. The mechanism relies on electrostatic repulsions between a conserved serine phosphorylated by CK2 and the acidic residues of the β4α2 loop, promoting E2 ubiquitin charging activity. Our investigation identifies a new and unexpected pivotal role for the acidic loop, providing the first evidence that this loop is crucial not only for downstream events related to ubiquitin chain assembly, but is also mandatory for the modulation of an upstream crucial step of the ubiquitin pathway: the ubiquitin charging in the E2 catalytic cleft.
Author Summary
A major mechanism for promoting protein regulation in eukaryotes involves the labeling with ubiquitin molecules of target proteins. Protein ubiquitination is involved in almost all aspects of eukaryotic cellular functions and is mediated, at the molecular level, by a hierarchical cascade of three different enzymes. Among these enzymes, E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes are located at the heart of the ubiquitination pathway and are key mediators of protein ubiquitination, which strongly influence the ultimate fate of the target substrates. Since several E2s have also been related to a variety of cancer and neurodegenerative disorders, increasing efforts are being devoted to the understanding of E2 regulation at the molecular level, a mandatory step for a complete understanding of the ubiquitination process. In the present contribution, we propose, by computational and biochemical investigations, a conserved mechanism of regulation by phosphorylation of the catalytic activity of a class of E2 enzymes, which plays a major role in the regulation of cell cycle progression and tumor development. Our results shed new light on and clarify molecular aspects related to one of the first steps of the ubiquitination cascade and its regulation.
PMCID: PMC3102755  PMID: 21637798
24.  Dynamic interactions of proteins in complex networks: identifying the complete set of interacting E2s for functional investigation of E3-dependent protein ubiquitination 
The FEBS journal  2009;276(19):5381-5389.
A ubiquitin ligase (E3) functions at the crossroad between ubiquitin activation and the attachment of ubiquitin to protein substrates. During this process, the E3 interacts with both a substrate and a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2). Although a major goal when investigating an E3 is to identify its substrates, recent evidence indicates that the E2 dictates the type of ubiquitin modification that will occur on the substrate. There are ~ 30 E2s identified in the human genome, many of which remain to be characterized. We found that the RING E3 BRCA1/BARD1 can interact with 10 different E2s. The ability of BRCA1 to interact with multiple E2s is likely to be a common feature among other RING and U-box E3s. We and others have also found that certain E2s show a preference for attaching either the first ubiquitin to a substrate lysine or ubiquitin to itself (chain building), suggesting that E2s may play a role in dictating product formation. Therefore, when investigating the functions of an E3 it is advisable to identify all E2s that interact with the E3 so that these can be used in E3-dependent substrate-ubiquitination assays. We describe a method used to identify all the E2s that interact with BRCA1. Defining the set of E2s that interact with other RING and U-box E3s will open the door for predictive models and lead to a better understand of substrate ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC2973559  PMID: 19712108
BRCA1; NMR; protein-protein interactions; RING domain; UbcH5; Ubc13; ubiquitin ligase; ubiquitination; ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme; yeast two-hybrid
25.  Deubiquitinases Sharpen Substrate Discrimination during Membrane Protein Degradation from the ER 
Cell  2013;154(3):609-622.
Newly synthesized membrane proteins are queried by ubiquitin ligase complexes and triaged between degradative and nondegradative fates. The mechanisms that convert modest differences in substrate-ligase interactions into decisive outcomes of ubiquitination are not well understood. Here, we reconstitute membrane protein recognition and ubiquitination in liposomes using purified components from a viral-mediated degradation pathway. We find that substrate-ligase interactions in the membrane directly influence processivity of ubiquitin attachment to modulate polyubiquitination. Unexpectedly, differential processivity alone could not explain the differential fates in cultured cells of degraded and nondegraded clients. Both computational and experimental analyses identified continuous deubiquitination as a prerequisite for maximal substrate discrimination. Deubiquitinases reduce polyubiquitin dwell times preferentially on clients that dissociate more rapidly from the ligase. This explains how small differences in substrate-ligase interaction can be amplified into larger differences in net degradation. These results provide a conceptual framework for substrate discrimination during membrane protein quality control.
Graphical Abstract
•Membrane protein ubiquitination has been reconstituted with purified factors in vitro•Differential ligase interactions alone cannot explain how clients are discriminated•Maximal client discrimination requires competing deubiquitination activity•Deubiquitinases control the dwell time of a degradation mark on potential clients
Optimal substrate discrimination by the protein degradation machinery requires deubiquitinases (DUBs) to counteract E3 ligases to exaggerate the differential polyubiquitination among potential clients. DUBs have greater access to well-folded substrates that show weaker interactions with the ligase, protecting them from degradation.
PMCID: PMC3732389  PMID: 23890821

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