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1.  Two Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes, UbcP1/Ubc4 and UbcP4/Ubc11, Have Distinct Functions for Ubiquitination of Mitotic Cyclin 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2003;23(10):3497-3505.
Cell cycle events are regulated by sequential activation and inactivation of Cdk kinases. Mitotic exit is accomplished by the inactivation of mitotic Cdk kinase, which is mainly achieved by degradation of cyclins. The ubiquitin-proteasome system is involved in this process, requiring APC/C (anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome) as a ubiquitin ligase. In Xenopus and clam oocytes, the ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes that function with APC/C have been identified as two proteins, UBC4 and UBCx/E2-C. Previously we reported that the fission yeast ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UbcP4/Ubc11, a homologue of UBCx/E2-C, is required for mitotic transition. Here we show that the other fission yeast ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, UbcP1/Ubc4, which is homologous to UBC4, is also required for mitotic transition in the same manner as UbcP4/Ubc11. Both ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes are essential for cell division and directly required for the degradation of mitotic cyclin Cdc13. They function nonredundantly in the ubiquitination of CDC13 because a defect in ubcP1/ubc4+ cannot be suppressed by high expression of UbcP4/Ubc11 and a defect in ubcP4/ubc11+ cannot be suppressed by high expression of UbcP1/Ubc4. In vivo analysis of the ubiquitinated state of Cdc13 shows that the ubiquitin chains on Cdc13 were short in ubcP1/ubc4 mutant cells while ubiquitinated Cdc13 was totally reduced in ubcP4/ubc11 mutant cells. Taken together, these results indicate that the two ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes play distinct and essential roles in the degradation of mitotic cyclin Cdc13, with the UbcP4/Ubc11-pathway initiating ubiquitination of Cdc13 and the UbcP1/Ubc4-pathway elongating the short ubiquitin chains on Cdc13.
PMCID: PMC164763  PMID: 12724408
2.  Mice Lacking the UBC4-testis Gene Have a Delay in Postnatal Testis Development but Normal Spermatogenesis and Fertility 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2005;25(15):6346-6354.
Activation of ubiquitination occurs during spermatogenesis and is dependent on the induction of isoforms of the UBC4 family of ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. The UBC4-testis isoform is testis specific, is induced in round spermatids, and demonstrates biochemical functions distinct from a ubiquitously expressed isoform UBC4-1. To explore further the function of UBC4-testis, mice bearing inactivation of this gene were produced. Homozygous (−/−) mice showed normal body growth and fertility. Although testis weight and morphology were normal in testes from adult mice, examination of young mice during the first wave of spermatogenesis revealed that testes were ∼10% smaller in weight at 40 and 45 days of age but had become normal at 65 days of age. Overall protein content, levels of ubiquitinated proteins, and ubiquitin-conjugating activity did not differ between wild-type and homozygous (−/−) mice. Spermatid number, as well as the motility of spermatozoa isolated from the epididymis, was also normal in homozygous (−/−) mice. To determine whether the germ cells lacking UBC4-testis might be more sensitive to stress, testes from wild-type and knockout mice were exposed to heat stress by implantation in the abdominal cavity. Testes from both strains of mice showed similar rates of degeneration in response to heat. The lack of an obvious phenotype did not appear to be due to induction of other UBC4 isoforms, as shown by two-dimensional gel immunoblotting. Our data indicate that UBC4-testis plays a role in early maturation of the testis and suggest that the many UBC4 isoforms have mixed redundant and specific functions.
PMCID: PMC1190331  PMID: 16024774
3.  The ubc-2 gene of Caenorhabditis elegans encodes a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme involved in selective protein degradation. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1993;13(3):1371-1377.
The ubiquitin-protein conjugation system is involved in a variety of eukaryotic cell functions, including the degradation of abnormal and short-lived proteins, chromatin structure, cell cycle progression, and DNA repair. The ubiquitination of target proteins is catalyzed by a ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1) and ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) and in some cases also requires auxiliary substrate recognition proteins (E3s). Multiple E2s have been found, and these likely possess specificity for different classes of target proteins. Here we report the cloning and characterization of a gene (ubc-2) encoding a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme which is involved in the selective degradation of abnormal and short-lived proteins in the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. The nematode ubc-2 gene encodes a 16.7-kDa protein with striking amino acid sequence similarity to Saccharomyces cerevisiae UBC4 and UBC5 and Drosophila UbcD1. When driven by the UBC4 promoter, ubc-2 can functionally substitute for UBC4 in yeast cells; it rescues the slow-growth phenotype of ubc4 ubc5 mutants at normal temperature and restores their ability to grow at elevated temperatures. Western blots (immunoblots) of ubc4 ubc5 yeast cells transformed with ubc-2 reveal a protein of the expected size, which cross-reacts with anti-Drosophila UbcD1 antibody. C. elegans ubc-2 is constitutively expressed at all life cycle stages and, unlike yeast UBC4 and UBC5, is not induced by heat shock. Both trans and cis splicing are involved in the maturation of the ubc-2 transcript. These data suggest that yeast UBC4 and UBC5, Drosophila UbcD1, and C. elegans ubc-2 define a highly conserved gene family which plays fundamental roles in all eukaryotic cells.
PMCID: PMC359446  PMID: 8441382
4.  Novel E3 Ubiquitin Ligases That Regulate Histone Protein Levels in the Budding Yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36295.
Core histone proteins are essential for packaging the genomic DNA into chromatin in all eukaryotes. Since multiple genes encode these histone proteins, there is potential for generating more histones than what is required for chromatin assembly. The positively charged histones have a very high affinity for negatively charged molecules such as DNA, and any excess of histone proteins results in deleterious effects on genomic stability and cell viability. Hence, histone levels are known to be tightly regulated via transcriptional, posttranscriptional and posttranslational mechanisms. We have previously elucidated the posttranslational regulation of histone protein levels by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway involving the E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzymes Ubc4/5 and the HECT (Homologous to E6-AP C-Terminus) domain containing E3 ligase Tom1 in the budding yeast. Here we report the identification of four additional E3 ligases containing the RING (Really Interesting New Gene) finger domains that are involved in the ubiquitylation and subsequent degradation of excess histones in yeast. These E3 ligases are Pep5, Snt2 as well as two previously uncharacterized Open Reading Frames (ORFs) YKR017C and YDR266C that we have named Hel1 and Hel2 (for Histone E3 Ligases) respectively. Mutants lacking these E3 ligases are sensitive to histone overexpression as they fail to degrade excess histones and accumulate high levels of endogenous histones on histone chaperones. Co-immunoprecipitation assays showed that these E3 ligases interact with the major E2 enzyme Ubc4 that is involved in the degradation related ubiquitylation of histones. Using mutagenesis we further demonstrate that the RING domains of Hel1, Hel2 and Snt2 are required for histone regulation. Lastly, mutants corresponding to Hel1, Hel2 and Pep5 are sensitive to replication inhibitors. Overall, our results highlight the importance of posttranslational histone regulatory mechanisms that employ multiple E3 ubiquitin ligases to ensure excess histone degradation and thus contribute to the maintenance of genomic stability.
PMCID: PMC3343073  PMID: 22570702
5.  The mechanism of OTUB1 inhibition of ubiquitination 
Nature  2012;483(7391):618-622.
Histones are ubiquitinated in response to DNA double strand breaks (DSB), promoting recruitment of repair proteins to chromatin1. UBC13 (UBE2N) is an ubiquitin conjugating enzyme (E2) that heterodimerizes with UEV1a2 and synthesizes K63–linked polyubiquitin (K63Ub) chains at DSB sites in concert with the ubiquitin ligase (E3), RNF1683. K63Ub synthesis is regulated in a noncanonical manner by the deubiquitinating enzyme, OTUB1 (OTU domain-containing ubiquitin aldehyde-binding protein 1), which binds preferentially to the UBC13~Ub thiolester4. Residues N-terminal to the OTU domain, which had been implicated in ubiquitin binding5, are required for binding to UBC13~Ub and inhibition of K63Ub synthesis5. Here we describe structural and biochemical studies elucidating how OTUB1 inhibits UBC13 and other E2 enzymes. We unexpectedly find that OTUB1 binding to UBC13~Ub is allosterically regulated by free ubiquitin, which binds to a second site in OTUB1 and increases its affinity for UBC13~Ub, while at the same time disrupting interactions with UEV1a in a manner that depends upon the OTUB1 N-terminus. Crystal structures of an OTUB1-UBC13 complex and of OTUB1 bound to ubiquitin aldehyde and a chemical UBC13~Ub conjugate show that binding of free ubiquitin to OTUB1 triggers conformational changes in the OTU domain and formation of a ubiquitin-binding helix in the N-terminus, thus promoting binding of the conjugated donor ubiquitin in UBC13~Ub to OTUB1. The donor ubiquitin thus cannot interact with the E2 enzyme, which has been shown to be important for ubiquitin transfer6,7. The N-terminal helix of OTUB1 is positioned to interfere with UEV1a binding to UBC13, as well as with attack on the thiolester by an acceptor ubiquitin, thereby inhibiting K63Ub synthesis. OTUB1 binding also occludes the RING E3 binding site on UBC13, thus providing a further component of inhibition. The general features of the inhibition mechanism explain how OTUB1 inhibits other E2 enzymes4 in a non-catalytic manner.
PMCID: PMC3319311  PMID: 22367539
6.  Expression and distribution of the class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes in the retina 
Molecular Vision  2010;16:2425-2437.
Mounting evidence implicates chronic oxidative stress as a significant pathogenic factor in the development and progression of retinopathies, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The age-dependent toxic accumulation of oxidatively damaged proteins, lipids, and DNA in susceptible cells of the retina arises, at least in part, from a decreased capacity to eliminate these damaged biomolecules. The goal of this study was to determine the expression patterns and function of class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (UbcM3, UBE2E2, and UbcM2) in the retina. These enzymes have been implicated in the ubiquitin-dependent degradation of oxidatively damaged and misfolded proteins.
Complementary western blotting and immunohistochemistry was performed with specific antibodies to determine the retinal cell expression pattern of each enzyme. Additional analyses using antibodies raised against UbcM2 were performed to determine the relative levels of the enzyme in lysates derived from various mouse organs as compared to the retina. An established light-damage model of oxidative stress-induced retinal degeneration was used to determine alterations in the susceptibility of mice harboring a single intact allele of UbcM2. Ubiquitin charging and auto-ubiquitylation assays were done to assess the catalytic state of UbcM2 following photo-oxidative stress.
Expression of the class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes in the retina, from highest to lowest, is UbcM2>UbcM3>UBE2E2. In addition to being the most robustly expressed, UbcM2 is further distinguished by its expression in photoreceptors and retinal pigment epithelial cells. UbcM2 is expressed in most mouse tissues analyzed and is most abundant in the retina. Studies using a bright-light-damage model of acute oxidative stress in mice harboring a single disrupted allele of UbcM2 revealed that a 58% reduction in enzyme levels did not increase the susceptibility of photoreceptors to acute photo-oxidative toxicity. This result may be explained by the observation that UbcM2 retained an intact and functional active site following exposure to acute bright light.
The class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, and in particular UbcM2, are expressed in the retina and may function to counter the accumulation of oxidatively damaged and misfolded proteins. A 58% reduction in UbcM2 does not increase the susceptibility of photoreceptors to an acute photo-oxidative stress, suggesting the existence of compensating enzymes and/or that the remaining UbcM2 activity is sufficient to target oxidatively damaged proteins for destruction.
PMCID: PMC2994761  PMID: 21139979
7.  A novel rat homolog of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes UBC4 and UBC5 with distinct biochemical features is induced during spermatogenesis. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1996;16(8):4064-4072.
The Saccharomyces cerevisiae ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) UBC4 and UBC5 are essential for degradation of short-lived and abnormal proteins. We previously identified rat cDNAs encoding two E2s with strong sequence similarity to UBC4 and UBC5. These E2 isoforms are widely expressed in rat tissues, consistent with a fundamental cellular function for these E2s. We now report a new isoform, 8A, which despite having >91% amino acid identity with the other isoforms, shows several novel features. Expression of the 8A isoform appears restricted to the testis, is absent in early life, but is induced during puberty. Hypophysectomy reduced expression of the 8A isoform. In situ hybridization studies indicated that 8A mRNA is expressed mainly in round spermatids. Immunoblot analyses showed that 8A protein is found not only in subfractions of germ cells enriched in round spermatids but also in subfractions containing residual bodies extruded from more mature elongated spermatids, indicating that the protein possesses a longer half-life than the mRNA. Unlike all previously identified mammalian and plant homologs of S. cerevisiae UBC4, which possess a basic pI, the 8A isoform is unique in possessing an acidic pI. The small differences in sequence between the 8A isoform and other rat isoforms conferred differences in biochemical function. The 8A isoform was less effective than an isoform with a basic pI or ineffective in conjugating ubiquitin to certain fractions of testis proteins. Thus, although multiple isoforms of a specific E2 may exist to ensure performance of a critical cellular function, our data demonstrate, for the first time, that multiple genes also permit highly specialized regulation of expression of specific isoforms and that subtle differences in E2 primary structure can dictate conjugation of ubiquitin to different subsets of cellular proteins.
PMCID: PMC231402  PMID: 8754804
8.  Selective Ubiquitylation of p21 and Cdt1 by UBCH8 and UBE2G Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes via the CRL4Cdt2 Ubiquitin Ligase Complex ▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2011;31(15):3136-3145.
CRL4Cdt2 is a cullin-based E3 ubiquitin ligase that promotes the ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis of various substrates implicated in the control of cell cycle and various DNA metabolic processes such as DNA replication and repair. Substrates for CRL4Cdt2 E3 ubiquitin ligase include the replication licensing factor Cdt1 and the cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) inhibitor p21. Inhibition of this E3 ligase leads to serious abnormalities of the cell cycle and cell death. The ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (UBC) involved in this important pathway, however, remains unknown. By a proteomic analysis of Cdt2-associated proteins and an RNA interference-based screening approach, we show that CRL4Cdt2 utilizes two different UBCs to target different substrates. UBCH8, a member of the UBE2E family of UBCs, ubiquitylates and promotes the degradation of p21, both during the normal cell cycle and in UV-irradiated cells. Importantly, depletion of UBCH8 by small interfering RNA (siRNA) increases p21 protein level, delays entry into S phase of the cell cycle, and suppresses the DNA damage response after UV irradiation. On the other hand, members of the UBE2G family of UBCs (UBE2G1 and UBE2G2) cooperate with CRL4Cdt2 to polyubiquitylate and degrade Cdt1 postradiation, an activity that is critical for preventing origin licensing in DNA-damaged cells. Finally, we show that UBCH8, but not UBE2G1 or UBE2G2, is required for CRL4Cdt2-mediated ubiquitylation and degradation of the histone H4 lysine 20 monomethyltransferase Set8, a previously identified CRL4Cdt2 substrate, as well as for CRL4Cdt2-dependent monoubiquitylation of PCNA in unstressed cells. These findings identify the UBCs required for the activity of CRL4Cdt2 on multiple substrates and demonstrate that different UBCs are involved in the selective ubiquitylation of different substrates by the same E3 complex.
PMCID: PMC3147600  PMID: 21628527
9.  RNF8-dependent histone ubiquitination during DNA damage response and spermatogenesis 
Histone ubiquitination regulates the chromatin structure that is important for many biological processes. Recently, ubiquitination of histones was observed during the DNA damage response (DDR), and this modification is controlled by really interesting new gene (RING) domain E3 ligase, RNF8. Together with the E2 conjugating enzyme UBC13, RNF8 catalyzes ubiquitination of the histones H2A and H2AX during the DDR, thus facilitating downstream recruitment of DDR factors, such as p53 binding protein 1 (53BP1) and breast cancer type 1 susceptibility protein (BRCA1), to the damage site. Accordingly, the RNF8 knockout mice display phenotypes associated with failed DDR, including hypersensitivity to ionizing radiation, V(D)J recombination deficiency, and a predisposition to cancer. In addition to the DDR phenotypes, RNF8 knockout mice fail to generate mature sperm during spermatogenesis, resulting in male sterility. The RNF8 knockout mice also have a drastic reduction in histone ubiquitination in the testes. These findings indicate that the role of histone ubiquitination during chromatin remodeling in two different biological events could be linked by an RNF8-dependent mechanism. Here, we review the molecular mechanism of RNF8-dependent histone ubiquitination both in DDR and spermatogenesis.
PMCID: PMC3080603  PMID: 21444325
acetylation; RNF8; UBC13; chromatin remodeling
10.  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
11.  Interactions between the quality control ubiquitin ligase CHIP and ubiquitin conjugating enzymes 
Ubiquitin (E3) ligases interact with specific ubiquitin conjugating (E2) enzymes to ubiquitinate particular substrate proteins. As the combination of E2 and E3 dictates the type and biological consequence of ubiquitination, it is important to understand the basis of specificity in E2:E3 interactions. The E3 ligase CHIP interacts with Hsp70 and Hsp90 and ubiquitinates client proteins that are chaperoned by these heat shock proteins. CHIP interacts with two types of E2 enzymes, UbcH5 and Ubc13-Uev1a. It is unclear, however, why CHIP binds these E2 enzymes rather than others, and whether CHIP interacts preferentially with UbcH5 or Ubc13-Uev1a, which form different types of polyubiquitin chains.
The 2.9 Å crystal structure of the CHIP U-box domain complexed with UbcH5a shows that CHIP binds to UbcH5 and Ubc13 through similar specificity determinants, including a key S-P-A motif on the E2 enzymes. The determinants make different relative contributions to the overall interactions between CHIP and the two E2 enzymes. CHIP undergoes auto-ubiquitination by UbcH5 but not by Ubc13-Uev1a. Instead, CHIP drives the formation of unanchored polyubiquitin by Ubc13-Uev1a. CHIP also interacts productively with the class III E2 enzyme Ube2e2, in which the UbcH5- and Ubc13-binding specificity determinants are highly conserved.
The CHIP:UbcH5a structure emphasizes the importance of specificity determinants located on the long loops and central helix of the CHIP U-box, and on the N-terminal helix and loops L4 and L7 of its cognate E2 enzymes. The S-P-A motif and other specificity determinants define the set of cognate E2 enzymes for CHIP, which likely includes several Class III E2 enzymes. CHIP's interactions with UbcH5, Ube2e2 and Ubc13-Uev1a are consistent with the notion that Ubc13-Uev1a may work sequentially with other E2 enzymes to carry out K63-linked polyubiquitination of CHIP substrates.
PMCID: PMC2396629  PMID: 18485199
The ubiquitination of proteins is a post-translational modification that was first described as a means to target misfolded or unwanted proteins for degradation by the proteasome. It is now appreciated that the ubiquitination of proteins also serves as a mechanism to modify protein function and cellular functions such as protein trafficking, cell signaling, DNA repair, chromatin modifications, cell-cycle progression and cell death. The ubiquitination of proteins occurs through the hierarchal transfer of ubiquitin from an E1 ubiquitin-activating enzyme to an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme and finally to an E3 ubiquitin ligase that transfers the ubiquitin to its target protein. It is the final E3 ubiquitin ligase that confers the substrate specificity for ubiquitination and is the focus of this review. Spermatogenesis is a complex and highly regulated process by which spermatogonial stem cells undergo mitotic proliferation and expansion of the diploid spermatogonial population, differentiate into spermatocytes and progress through two meiotic divisions to produce haploid spermatids that proceed through a final morphogenesis to generate mature spermatozoa. The ubiquitination of proteins in the cells of the testis occurs in many of the processes required for the progression of mature spermatozoa. Since it is the E3 ubiquitin ligase that recognizes the target protein and provides the specificity and selectivity for ubiquitination, this review highlights known examples of E3 ligases in the testis and the differing roles that they play in maintaining functional spermatogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4043869  PMID: 24632385
Ubiquitin; E3 ligase; spermatogenesis; ubiquitination
13.  A Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzyme Is Essential for Developmental Transitions in Dictyostelium 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  1997;8(10):1989-2002.
We have identified a developmentally essential gene, UbcB, by insertional mutagenesis. The encoded protein (UBC1) shows very high amino acid sequence identity to ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes from other organisms, suggesting that UBC1 is involved in protein ubiquitination and possibly degradation during Dictyostelium development. Consistent with the homology of the UBC1 protein to UBCs, the developmental pattern of protein ubiquitination is altered in ubcB-null cells. ubcB-null cells are blocked in the ability to properly execute the developmental transition that occurs between the induction of postaggregative gene expression during mound formation and the induction of cell-type differentiation and subsequent morphogenesis. ubcB-null cells plated on agar form mounds with normal kinetics; however, they remain at this stage for ∼10 h before forming multiple tips and fingers that then arrest. Under other conditions, some of the fingers form migrating slugs, but no culmination is observed. In ubcB-null cells, postaggregative gene transcripts accumulate to very high levels and do not decrease significantly with time as they do in wild-type cells. Expression of cell-type-specific genes is very delayed, with the level of prespore-specific gene expression being significantly reduced compared with that in wild-type cells. lacZ reporter studies using developmentally regulated and cell-type-specific promoters suggest that ubcB-null cells show an unusually elevated level of staining of lacZ reporters expressed in anterior-like cells, a regulatory cell population found scattered throughout the aggregate, and reduced staining of a prespore reporter. ubcB-null cells in a chimeric organism containing predominantly wild-type cells are able to undergo terminal differentiation but show altered spatial localization. In contrast, in chimeras containing only a small fraction of wild-type cells, the mature fruiting body is very small and composed almost exclusively of wild-type cells, with the ubcB-null cells being present as a mass of cells located in extreme posterior of the developing organism. The amino acid sequence analysis of the UbcB open reading frame (ORF) and the analysis of the developmental phenotypes suggest that tip formation and subsequent development requires specific protein ubiquitination, and possibly degradation.
PMCID: PMC25659  PMID: 9348538
14.  A ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme in fission yeast that is essential for the onset of anaphase in mitosis. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1997;17(6):3388-3397.
A cDNA encoding a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme designated UbcP4 in fission yeast was isolated. Disruption of its genomic gene revealed that it was essential for cell viability. In vivo depletion of the UbcP4 protein demonstrated that it was necessary for cell cycle progression at two phases, G2/M and metaphase/anaphase transitions. The G2 arrest of UbcP4-depleted cells was dependent upon chk1, which mediates checkpoint pathway. UbcP4-depleted cells arrested at metaphase had condensed chromosomes but were defective in separation. However, septum formation and cytokinesis were not restrained during the metaphase arrest. Overexpression of UbcP4 specifically rescued the growth defect of cut9ts cells at a restrictive temperature. cut9 encodes a component of the anaphase-promoting complex (APC) which is required for chromosome segregation at anaphase and moreover is defined as cyclin-specific ubiquitin ligase. Cdc13, a mitotic cyclin in fission yeast, was accumulated in the UbcP4-depleted cells. These results strongly suggested that UbcP4 is a ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme working in conjunction with APC and mediates the ubiquitin pathway for degradation of "sister chromatid holding protein(s)" at the onset of anaphase and possibly of mitotic cyclin at the exit of mitosis.
PMCID: PMC232192  PMID: 9154838
15.  Ubiquitination is involved in secondary growth, not initial formation of polyglutamine protein aggregates in C. elegans 
BMC Cell Biology  2012;13:10.
Protein misfolding and subsequent aggregation are hallmarks of several human diseases. The cell has a variety of mechanisms for coping with misfolded protein stress, including ubiquitin-mediated protein degradation. In fact, the presence of ubiquitin at protein aggregates is a common feature of protein misfolding diseases. Ubiquitin conjugating enzymes (UBCs) are part of the cascade of enzymes responsible for the regulated attachment of ubiquitin to protein substrates. The specific UBC used during ubiquitination can determine the type of polyubiquitin chain linkage, which in turn plays an important role in determining the fate of the ubiquitinated protein. Thus, UBCs may serve an important role in the cellular response to misfolded proteins and the fate of protein aggregates.
The Q82 strain of C. elegans harbors a transgene encoding an aggregation prone tract of 82 glutamine residues fused to green fluorescent protein (Q82::GFP) that is expressed in the body wall muscle. When measured with time-lapse microscopy in young larvae, the initial formation of individual Q82::GFP aggregates occurs in approximately 58 minutes. This process is largely unaffected by a mutation in the C. elegans E1 ubiquitin activating enzyme. RNAi of ubc-22, a nematode homolog of E2-25K, resulted in higher pre-aggregation levels of Q82::GFP and a faster initial aggregation rate relative to control. Knockdown of ubc-1 (RAD6 homolog), ubc-13, and uev-1 did not affect the kinetics of initial aggregation. However, RNAi of ubc-13 decreases the rate of secondary growth of the aggregate. This result is consistent with previous findings that aggregates in young adult worms are smaller after ubc-13 RNAi. mCherry::ubiquitin becomes localized to Q82::GFP aggregates during the fourth larval (L4) stage of life, a time point long after most aggregates have formed. FLIP and FRAP analysis indicate that mCherry::ubiquitin is considerably more mobile than Q82::GFP within aggregates.
These data indicate that initial formation of Q82::GFP aggregates in C. elegans is not directly dependent on ubiquitination, but is more likely a spontaneous process driven by biophysical properties in the cytosol such as the concentration of the aggregating species. The effect of ubiquitination appears to be most significant in later, secondary aggregate growth.
PMCID: PMC3368771  PMID: 22494772
16.  RING-H2 Protein WSSV249 from White Spot Syndrome Virus Sequesters a Shrimp Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzyme, PvUbc, for Viral Pathogenesis 
Journal of Virology  2005;79(14):8764-8772.
Modification of proteins by ubiquitin is essential for numerous cellular processes. The RING-H2 finger motif has been implicated in ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2)-dependent ubiquitination. Four proteins, WSSV199, WSSV222, WSSV249, and WSSV403, from white spot syndrome virus (WSSV) contain the RING-H2 motif. Here we report that WSSV249 physically interacts with a shrimp ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, PvUbc, and mediates ubiquitination through its RING-H2 motif in the presence of E1 and PvUbc. Mutations of the putative zinc coordination residues in the RING-H2 domain of WSSV249, however, ablate ubiquitination efficiency. In addition, the RING-H2 domain of WSSV249 is capable of ubiquitination with UbcH1, UbcH2, UbcH5a, UbcH5b, UbcH5c, UbcH6, and UbcH10, respectively, exhibiting a low degree of E2 specificity. Significantly, the expression of WSSV249 and PvUbc increased during infection, as revealed by real-time PCR. Furthermore, in situ hybridization showed that WSSV249 and PvUbc display similar expression patterns in infected shrimps, and immunofluorescence and immunohistochemistry assays showed an increase of PvUbc in infected shrimp cells. These results suggest that the RING-H2 protein WSSV249 from WSSV may function as an E3 ligase via sequestration of PvUbc for viral pathogenesis in shrimp.
PMCID: PMC1168725  PMID: 15994770
17.  Yeast Chfr Homologs Retard Cell Cycle at G1 and G2/M via Ubc4 and Ubc13/Mms2-Dependent Ubiquitination 
Cell cycle (Georgetown, Tex.)  2007;7(1):96-105.
Checkpoint with forkhead-associated and RING (Chfr) is a ubiquitin ligase (E3) that establishes an antephase or prometaphase checkpoint in response to mitotic stress. Though ubiquitination is essential for checkpoint function, the sites, linkages and ubiquitin conjugating enzyme (E2) specificity are controversial. Here we dissect the function of the two Chfr homologs in S. cerevisiae, Chf1 and Chf2, overexpression of which retard cell cycle at both G1 and G2. Using a genetic assay, we establish that Ubc4 is required for Chf2-dependent G1 cell cycle delay and Chf protein turnover. In contrast, Ubc13/Mms2 is required for G2 delay and does not contribute to Chf protein turnover. By reconstituting cis and trans-ubiquitination activities of Chf proteins in purified systems and characterizing sites modified and linkages formed by tandem mass spectrometry, we discovered that Ubc13/Mms2-dependent modifications are a distinct subset of those catalyzed by Ubc4. Mutagenesis of Lys residues identified in vitro indicates that site-specific Ubc4-dependent Chf protein autoubiquitination is responsible for Chf protein turnover. Thus, combined genetic and biochemical analyses indicate that Chf proteins have dual E2 specificity accounting for different functions in the cell cycle.
PMCID: PMC2292246  PMID: 18202552
Chfr; E3 ubiquitin ligase; E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme; Ubc4; Ubc13/Mms2; yeast genetics; in vitro reconstitution; tandem mass spectrometry
18.  A Structurally Unique E2-Binding Domain Activates Ubiquitination by the ERAD E2, Ubc7p, Through Multiple Mechanisms 
Molecular cell  2013;50(4):516-527.
Cue1p is an integral component of yeast endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-associated degradation (ERAD) ubiquitin ligase (E3) complexes. It tethers the ERAD ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme (E2), Ubc7p, to the ER and prevents its degradation, and also activates Ubc7p via unknown mechanisms. We have now determined the crystal structure of the Ubc7p-binding region (U7BR) of Cue1p with Ubc7p. The U7BR is a unique E2-binding domain that includes three α-helices that interact extensively with the ‘backside’ of Ubc7p. Residues essential for E2 binding are also required for activation of Ubc7p and for ERAD. We establish that the U7BR stimulates both RING-independent and dependent ubiquitin transfer from Ubc7p. Moreover, the U7BR enhances ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1)-mediated charging of Ubc7p with ubiquitin. This is the first example where an essential component of E3 complexes both binds to E2 and enhances E2 loading with ubiquitin. These findings provide new insights into mechanisms of stimulating ubiquitination.
PMCID: PMC4109681  PMID: 23665230
19.  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
20.  Noncanonical E2 Variant-Independent Function of UBC13 in Promoting Checkpoint Protein Assembly▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2008;28(19):6104-6112.
The E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC13 plays pivotal roles in diverse biological processes. Recent studies have elucidated that UBC13, in concert with the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF8, propagates the DNA damage signal via a ubiquitylation-dependent signaling pathway. However, mechanistically how UBC13 mediates its role in promoting checkpoint protein assembly and its genetic requirement for E2 variants remain elusive. Here we provide evidence to support the idea that the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex RNF8-UBC13 functions independently of E2 variants and is sufficient in facilitating ubiquitin conjugations and accumulation of DNA damage mediator 53BP1 at DNA breaks. The RNF8 RING domain serves as the molecular platform to anchor UBC13 at the damaged chromatin, where localized ubiquitylation events allow sustained accumulation of checkpoint proteins. Intriguingly, we found that only a group of RING domains derived from E3 ubiquitin ligases, which have been shown to interact with UBC13, enabled UBC13-mediated FK2 and 53BP1 focus formation at DNA breaks. We propose that the RNF8 RING domain selects and loads a subset of UBC13 molecules, distinct from those that exist as heterodimers, onto sites of double-strand breaks, which facilitates the amplification of DNA damage signals.
PMCID: PMC2547017  PMID: 18678647
21.  Overexpression of VrUBC1, a Mung Bean E2 Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzyme, Enhances Osmotic Stress Tolerance in Arabidopsis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66056.
The ubiquitin conjugating enzyme E2 (UBC E2) mediates selective ubiquitination, acting with E1 and E3 enzymes to designate specific proteins for subsequent degradation. In the present study, we characterized the function of the mung bean VrUBC1 gene (Vigna radiata UBC 1). RNA gel-blot analysis showed that VrUBC1 mRNA expression was induced by either dehydration, high salinity or by the exogenous abscisic acid (ABA), but not by low temperature or wounding. Biochemical studies of VrUBC1 recombinant protein and complementation of yeast ubc4/5 by VrUBC1 revealed that VrUBC1 encodes a functional UBC E2. To understand the function of this gene in development and plant responses to osmotic stresses, we overexpressed VrUBC1 in Arabidopsis (Arabidopsis thaliana). The VrUBC1-overexpressing plants displayed highly sensitive responses to ABA and osmotic stress during germination, enhanced ABA- or salt-induced stomatal closing, and increased drought stress tolerance. The expression levels of a number of key ABA signaling genes were increased in VrUBC1-overexpressing plants compared to the wild-type plants. Yeast two-hybrid and bimolecular fluorescence complementation demonstrated that VrUBC1 interacts with AtVBP1 (A. thaliana VrUBC1 Binding Partner 1), a C3HC4-type RING E3 ligase. Overall, these results demonstrate that VrUBC1 plays a positive role in osmotic stress tolerance through transcriptional regulation of ABA-related genes and possibly through interaction with a novel RING E3 ligase.
PMCID: PMC3688854  PMID: 23824688
22.  Complex Structure of OspI and Ubc13: The Molecular Basis of Ubc13 Deamidation and Convergence of Bacterial and Host E2 Recognition 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003322.
Ubc13 is an important ubiquitin-conjugating (E2) enzyme in the NF-κB signaling pathway. The Shigella effector OspI targets Ubc13 and deamidates Gln100 of Ubc13 to a glutamic acid residue, leading to the inhibition of host inflammatory responses. Here we report the crystal structure of the OspI-Ubc13 complex at 2.3 Å resolution. The structure reveals that OspI uses two differently charged regions to extensively interact with the α1 helix, L1 loop and L2 loop of Ubc13. The Gln100 residue is bound within the hydrophilic catalytic pocket of OspI. A comparison between Ubc13-bound and wild-type free OspI structures revealed that Ubc13 binding induces notable structural reassembly of the catalytic pocket, suggesting that substrate binding might be involved in the catalysis of OspI. The OspI-binding sites in Ubc13 largely overlap with the binding residues for host ubiquitin E3 ligases and a deubiquitinating enzyme, which suggests that the bacterial effector and host proteins exploit the same surface on Ubc13 for specific recognition. Biochemical results indicate that both of the differently charged regions in OspI are important for the interaction with Ubc13, and the specificity determinants in Ubc13 for OspI recognition reside in the distinct residues in the α1 helix and L2 region. Our study reveals the molecular basis of Ubc13 deamidation by OspI, as well as a convergence of E2 recognition by bacterial and host proteins.
Author Summary
The Gram-negative pathogenic bacterium Shigella infects human intestinal epithelium cells and causes severe inflammatory colitis (bacillary dysentery). Shigella harbors an approximately 220-kb virulence plasmid that encodes a type III secretion system (T3SS) protein secretion apparatus and many effector proteins. Using the T3SS, Shigella delivers the effector proteins into the host cells, targeting key signal molecules and manipulating the host physiological processes and thereby promoting infection and multiplication. OspI, a newly identified Shigella effector, targets the host Ubc13 protein, a critical ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme in the NF-κB signaling pathway. OspI deamidates Gln100 of Ubc13 to a glutamic acid residue, thereby disrupting TRAF6-catalyzed polyubiquitination and dampening host inflammatory responses. However, the structural mechanism of this specific deamidation is unclear. Through crystallography, we have determined the structure of the OspI-Ubc13 complex. The structure illustrates how OspI interacts with Ubc13 and how Ubc13 induces conformational changes in OspI. Combining structural analysis and biochemical assays, we revealed how OspI distinguishes Ubc13 from other ubiquitin conjugating enzymes and found that OspI binds to the same surface region on Ubc13 as host TRAF6, CHIP and OTUB1. Our study sheds light on the molecular mechanism of Ubc13 deamidation by OspI and provides new insights into E2 recognition by bacterial and host proteins.
PMCID: PMC3636029  PMID: 23633953
23.  Sequence Determinants of E2-E6AP Binding Affinity and Specificity 
Journal of molecular biology  2007;369(2):419-428.
The conjugation of ubiquitin to substrates requires a series of enzymatic reactions consisting of an activating enzyme (E1), conjugating enzymes (E2) and ligases (E3). Tagging the appropriate substrate with ubiquitin is achieved by specific E2-E3 and E3-substrate interactions. E6AP, a member of the HECT family of E3s, has been previously shown to bind and function with the E2s UbcH7 and UbcH8. To decipher the sequence determinants of this specificity we have developed a quantitative E2-E3 binding assay based on fluorescence polarization and used this assay to measure the affinity of wild type and mutant E2–E6AP interactions. Alanine scanning of the E6AP–UbcH7 binding interface identified 4 side chains on UbcH7 and 6 side chains on E6AP that contribute more than 1 kcal /mol to the binding free energy. Two of the hot spot residues from UbcH7 (K96 and K100) are conserved in UbcH8 but vary across other E2s. To determine if these are key specificity determining residues, we attempted to induce a tighter association between the E2 UbcH5b and E6AP by mutating the corresponding positions in UbcH5b to lysines. Surprisingly, the mutations had little effect, but rather a mutation at UbcH7 position 4, which is not at a hot spot on the UbcH7–E6AP interface, significantly strengthened UbcH5bs affinity for E6AP. This result indicates that E2-E3 binding specificities are a function of both favorable interactions that promote binding, and unfavorable interactions that prevent binding with unwanted partners.
PMCID: PMC1945100  PMID: 17433363
Ubiquitin; UbcH7; E6AP; HECT; E2-E3 Specificity
24.  Histone levels are regulated by phosphorylation and ubiquitylation dependent proteolysis 
Nature cell biology  2009;11(8):925-933.
Histone levels are tightly regulated to prevent harmful effects such as genomic instability and hypersensitivity to DNA damaging agents due to the accumulation of these highly basic proteins when DNA replication slows down or stops. Although chromosomal histones are stable, excess (non-chromatin bound) histones are rapidly degraded in a Rad53 kinase dependent manner in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Here we demonstrate that excess histones associate with Rad53 in vivo, appear to undergo modifications such as tyrosine phosphorylation and polyubiquitylation, before their proteolysis by the proteasome. We have identified the tyrosine 99 residue of histone H3 as being critical for the efficient ubiquitylation and degradation of this histone. We have also identified the E2 proteins Ubc4 and Ubc5, as well as the E3 ubiquitin ligase Tom1, as enzymes involved in the ubiquitylation of excess histones. Regulated histone proteolysis has major implications for the maintenance of epigenetic marks on chromatin, genomic stability and the packaging of sperm DNA.
PMCID: PMC2720428  PMID: 19578373
Histones; Rad53; Phosphorylation; Ubiquitylation; Proteasome; Ubc4; Ubc5; Tom1
25.  A simple and high-sensitivity method for analysis of ubiquitination and polyubiquitination based on wheat cell-free protein synthesis 
BMC Plant Biology  2009;9:39.
Ubiquitination is mediated by the sequential action of at least three enzymes: the E1 (ubiquitin-activating enzyme), E2 (ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme) and E3 (ubiquitin ligase) proteins. Polyubiquitination of target proteins is also implicated in several critical cellular processes. Although Arabidopsis genome research has estimated more than 1,300 proteins involved in ubiquitination, little is known about the biochemical functions of these proteins. Here we demonstrate a novel, simple and high-sensitive method for in vitro analysis of ubiquitination and polyubiquitination based on wheat cell-free protein synthesis and luminescent detection.
Using wheat cell-free synthesis, 11 E3 proteins from Arabidopsis full-length cDNA templates were produced. These proteins were analyzed either in the translation mixture or purified recombinant protein from the translation mixture. In our luminescent method using FLAG- or His-tagged and biotinylated ubiquitins, the polyubiquitin chain on AtUBC22, UPL5 and UPL7 (HECT) and CIP8 (RING) was detected. Also, binding of ubiquitin to these proteins was detected using biotinylated ubiquitin and FLAG-tagged recombinant protein. Furthermore, screening of the RING 6 subgroup demonstrated that At1g55530 was capable of polyubiquitin chain formation like CIP8. Interestingly, these ubiquitinations were carried out without the addition of exogenous E1 and/or E2 proteins, indicating that these enzymes were endogenous to the wheat cell-free system. The amount of polyubiquitinated proteins in the crude translation reaction mixture was unaffected by treatment with MG132, suggesting that our system does not contain 26S proteasome-dependent protein degradation activity.
In this study, we developed a simple wheat cell-free based luminescence method that could be a powerful tool for comprehensive ubiquitination analysis.
PMCID: PMC2674041  PMID: 19348673

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