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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  Functional Characterization of Residues Required for the Herpes Simplex Virus 1 E3 Ubiquitin Ligase ICP0 To Interact with the Cellular E2 Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzyme UBE2D1 (UbcH5a) 
Journal of Virology  2012;86(11):6323-6333.
The viral ubiquitin ligase ICP0 is required for efficient initiation of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) lytic infection and productive reactivation of viral genomes from latency. ICP0 has been shown to target a number of specific cellular proteins for proteasome-dependent degradation during lytic infection, including the promyelocytic leukemia protein (PML) and its small ubiquitin-like modified (SUMO) isoforms. We have shown previously that ICP0 can catalyze the formation of unanchored polyubiquitin chains and mediate the ubiquitination of specific substrate proteins in vitro in the presence of two E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes, namely, UBE2D1 (UbcH5a) and UBE2E1 (UbcH6), in a RING finger-dependent manner. Using homology modeling in conjunction with site-directed mutagenesis, we identify specific residues required for the interaction between the RING finger domain of ICP0 and UBE2D1, and we report that point mutations at these residues compromise the ability of ICP0 to induce the colocalization of conjugated ubiquitin and the degradation of PML and its SUMO-modified isoforms. Furthermore, we show that RING finger mutants that are unable to interact with UBE2D1 fail not only to complement the plaque-forming defect of an ICP0-null mutant virus but also to mediate the derepression of quiescent HSV-1 genomes in cell culture. These data demonstrate that the ability of ICP0 to interact with cellular E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes is fundamentally important for its biological functions during HSV-1 infection.
PMCID: PMC3372195  PMID: 22438555
7.  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
8.  Catalysis of lysine 48-specific ubiquitin chain assembly by residues in E2 and ubiquitin 
Molecular cell  2010;39(4):548-559.
Protein ubiquitination is catalyzed by ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) in collaboration with ubiquitin-protein ligases (E3s). This process depends on nucleophilic attack by a substrate lysine on a thioester bond linking the C-terminus of ubiquitin to a cysteine in the E2 active site. Different E2 family members display specificity for lysines in distinct contexts. We addressed the mechanistic basis for this lysine selectivity in Ubc1, an E2 that catalyzes the ubiquitination of lysine 48 (K48) in ubiquitin, leading to the formation of K48-linked polyubiquitin chains. We identified a cluster of polar residues near the Ubc1 active site, as well as a residue in ubiquitin itself, that are required for catalysis of K48-specific ubiquitin ligation but not for general activity toward other lysines. Our results suggest that the active site of Ubc1, as well as the surface of ubiquitin, contain specificity determinants that channel specific lysines to the central residues involved directly in catalysis.
PMCID: PMC2929935  PMID: 20797627
9.  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
10.  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
11.  Regulation of p53 Localization and Activity by Ubc13▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2006;26(23):8901-8913.
The abundance and activity of p53 are regulated largely by ubiquitin ligases. Here we demonstrate a previously undisclosed regulation of p53 localization and activity by Ubc13, an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme. While increasing p53 stability, Ubc13 decreases p53 transcriptional activity and increases its localization to the cytoplasm, changes that require its ubiquitin-conjugating activity. Ubc13 elicits K63-dependent ubiquitination of p53, which attenuates Hdm2-induced polyubiquitination of p53. Ubc13 association with p53 requires an intact C-terminal domain of p53 and is markedly stronger with a p53 mutant that cannot tetramerize. Expression of Ubc13 in vivo increases the pool of monomeric p53, indicating that Ubc13 affects tetramerization of p53. Significantly, wild-type but not mutant Ubc13 is associated with polysomes and enriches p53 within this fraction. In response to DNA damage, Ubc13 is no longer capable of facilitating p53 monomerization, in part due to a decrease in its own levels which is p53 dependent. Our findings point to a newly discerned mechanism important in the regulation of p53 organization, localization, and activity by Ubc13.
PMCID: PMC1636826  PMID: 17000756
12.  Histone H4 hyperacetylation and rapid turnover of its acetyl groups in transcriptionally inactive rooster testis spermatids. 
Nucleic Acids Research  1982;10(24):8049-8059.
In order to study the relationship between acetylation of histones, chromatin structure and gene activity, the distribution and turnover of acetyl groups among nucleosomal core histones and the extent of histone H4 acetylation were examined in rooster testis cell nuclei at different stages of spermatogenesis. Histone H4 was the predominant acetylated histone in mature testes. Hyperacetylation of H4 and rapid turnover of its acetyl groups are not univocally correlated with transcriptional activity since they were detected in both genetically active testicular cells and genetically inactive elongated spermatids. During the transition from nucleohistone to nucleoprotamine in elongated spermatids the chromatin undergoes dramatic structural changes with exposition of binding sites on DNA (1). Hyperacetylation of H4 and rapid turnover of its acetyl groups could be correlated with the particular conformation of chromatin in elongated spermatids and might represent a necessary condition for binding of chromosomal proteins to DNA.
PMCID: PMC327069  PMID: 7162988
13.  Pex2 and Pex12 Function as Protein-Ubiquitin Ligases in Peroxisomal Protein Import▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2009;29(20):5505-5516.
The PTS1-dependent peroxisomal matrix protein import is facilitated by the receptor protein Pex5 and can be divided into cargo recognition in the cytosol, membrane docking of the cargo-receptor complex, cargo release, and recycling of the receptor. The final step is controlled by the ubiquitination status of Pex5. While polyubiquitinated Pex5 is degraded by the proteasome, monoubiquitinated Pex5 is destined for a new round of the receptor cycle. Recently, the ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes involved in Pex5 ubiquitination were identified as Ubc4 and Pex4 (Ubc10), whereas the identity of the corresponding protein-ubiquitin ligases remained unknown. Here we report on the identification of the protein-ubiquitin ligases that are responsible for the ubiquitination of the peroxisomal protein import receptor Pex5. It is demonstrated that each of the three RING peroxins Pex2, Pex10, and Pex12 exhibits ubiquitin-protein isopeptide ligase activity. Our results show that Pex2 mediates the Ubc4-dependent polyubiquitination whereas Pex12 facilitates the Pex4-dependent monoubiquitination of Pex5.
PMCID: PMC2756880  PMID: 19687296
14.  Karyopherin alpha 1 is a putative substrate of the RAG1 ubiquitin ligase 
Molecular immunology  2008;46(7):1319-1325.
The RAG1 recombinase, which participates in DNA manipulation during rearrangement of antigen receptor genes in developing immune cells, possesses ubiquitin ligase activity. The nuclear transport protein karyopherin alpha 1 (KPNA1) binds to RAG1 upstream of its ubiquitin ligase domain, but this interaction is not required for nuclear localization of RAG1. We found that the isolated ubiquitin ligase domain of RAG1 (amino acids 218-389) promoted ubiquitylation of purified KPNA1. While RAG1 auto-ubiquitylation is dependent on the ubiquitin conjugating enzyme CDC34, ubiquitylation of KPNA1 was best supported by UbcH2/Rad6 and UbcH5a. Ubiquitylation of KPNA1 required the lysine/arginine-rich region spanning RAG1 amino acids 218-263 upstream of the RAG1 ubiquitin ligase domain, but RAG1 was still able to undergo auto-ubiquitylation in this region even in the presence of KPNA1. This is the first putative substrate identified for the RAG1 ubiquitin ligase, and to our knowledge it is the first reported case of ubiquitylation of KPNA1.
PMCID: PMC2705876  PMID: 19118899
15.  DNA Damage-Dependent Acetylation and Ubiquitination of H2AX Enhances Chromatin Dynamics▿ †  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2007;27(20):7028-7040.
Chromatin reorganization plays an important role in DNA repair, apoptosis, and cell cycle checkpoints. Among proteins involved in chromatin reorganization, TIP60 histone acetyltransferase has been shown to play a role in DNA repair and apoptosis. However, how TIP60 regulates chromatin reorganization in the response of human cells to DNA damage is largely unknown. Here, we show that ionizing irradiation induces TIP60 acetylation of histone H2AX, a variant form of H2A known to be phosphorylated following DNA damage. Furthermore, TIP60 regulates the ubiquitination of H2AX via the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC13, which is induced by DNA damage. This ubiquitination of H2AX requires its prior acetylation. We also demonstrate that acetylation-dependent ubiquitination by the TIP60-UBC13 complex leads to the release of H2AX from damaged chromatin. We conclude that the sequential acetylation and ubiquitination of H2AX by TIP60-UBC13 promote enhanced histone dynamics, which in turn stimulate a DNA damage response.
PMCID: PMC2168918  PMID: 17709392
16.  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
17.  The Ubc3 (Cdc34) ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme is ubiquitinated and phosphorylated in vivo. 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1994;14(5):3022-3029.
The transition from G1 to S phase of the cell cycle in Saccharomyces cerevisiae requires the activity of the Ubc3 (Cdc34) ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme. S. cerevisiae cells lacking a functional UBC3 (CDC34) gene are able to execute the Start function that initiates the cell cycle but fail to form a mitotic spindle or enter S phase. The Ubc3 (Cdc34) enzyme has previously been shown to catalyze the attachment of multiple ubiquitin molecules to model substrates, suggesting that the role of this enzyme in cell cycle progression depends on its targeting an endogenous protein(s) for degradation. In this report, we demonstrate that the Ubc3 (Cdc34) protein is itself a substrate for both ubiquitination and phosphorylation. Immunochemical localization of the gene product to the nucleus renders it likely that the relevant substrates similarly reside within the nucleus.
PMCID: PMC358670  PMID: 8164658
18.  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
19.  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
20.  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
21.  Ubiquitin control of S phase: a new role for the ubiquitin conjugating enzyme, UbcH7 
Cell Division  2009;4:17.
Events within and transitions between the phases of the eukaryotic cell cycle are tightly controlled by transcriptional and post-translational processes. Prominent among them is a profound role for the ubiquitin proteasome proteolytic pathway. The timely degradation of proteins balances the increases in gene products dictated by changes in transcription. Of the dozens of ubiquitin conjugating enzymes, or E2s, functions in control of the cell cycle have been defined for only UbcH10 and Ubc3/Cdc34. Each of these E2s works primarily with one ubiquitin ligase or E3. Here we show that another E2, UbcH7 is a regulator of S phase of the cell cycle. Over-expression of UbcH7 delays entry into S phase whereas depletion of UbcH7 increases the length of S phase and decreases cell proliferation. Additionally, the level of the checkpoint kinase Chk1 increases upon UbcH7 depletion while the level of phosphorylated PTEN decreases. Taken together, these data indicate that the length of S phase is controlled in part by UbcH7 through a PTEN/Akt/Chk1 pathway. Potential mechanisms by which UbcH7 controls Chk1 levels both directly and indirectly, as well as the length of S phase are discussed and additional functions for UbcH7 are reviewed.
PMCID: PMC2734563  PMID: 19664228
22.  Ubiquitin charging of human class III ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes triggers their nuclear import 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2004;167(4):649-659.
Ubiquitin is a small polypeptide that is conjugated to proteins and commonly serves as a degradation signal. The attachment of ubiquitin (Ub) to a substrate proceeds through a multi-enzyme cascade involving an activating enzyme (E1), a conjugating enzyme (E2), and a protein ligase (E3). We previously demonstrated that a murine E2, UbcM2, is imported into nuclei by the transport receptor importin-11. We now show that the import mechanism for UbcM2 and two other human class III E2s (UbcH6 and UBE2E2) uniquely requires the covalent attachment of Ub to the active site cysteine of these enzymes. This coupling of E2 activation and transport arises from the selective interaction of importin-11 with the Ub-loaded forms of these enzymes. Together, these findings reveal that Ub charging can function as a nuclear import trigger, and identify a novel link between E2 regulation and karyopherin-mediated transport.
PMCID: PMC2172591  PMID: 15545318
23.  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
24.  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
25.  SUMO-Conjugating Enzyme E2 UBC9 Mediates Viral Immediate-Early Protein SUMOylation in Crayfish To Facilitate Reproduction of White Spot Syndrome Virus 
Journal of Virology  2013;87(1):636-647.
Successful viruses have evolved superior strategies to escape host defenses or exploit host biological pathways. Most of the viral immediate-early (ie) genes are essential for viral infection and depend solely on host proteins; however, the molecular mechanisms are poorly understood. In this study, we focused on the modification of viral IE proteins by the crayfish small ubiquitin-related modifier (SUMO) and investigated the role of SUMOylation during the viral life cycle. SUMO and SUMO ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme 9 (UBC9) involved in SUMOylation were identified in red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). Both SUMO and UBC9 were upregulated in crayfish challenged with white spot syndrome virus (WSSV). Replication of WSSV genes increased in crayfish injected with recombinant SUMO or UBC9, but injection of mutant SUMO or UBC9 protein had no effect. Subsequently, we analyzed the mechanism by which crayfish SUMOylation facilitates WSSV replication. Crayfish UBC9 bound to all three WSSV IE proteins tested, and one of these IE proteins (WSV051) was covalently modified by SUMO in vitro. The expression of viral ie genes was affected and that of late genes was significantly inhibited in UBC9-silenced or SUMO-silenced crayfish, and the inhibition effect was rescued by injection of recombinant SUMO or UBC9. The results of this study demonstrate that viral IE proteins can be modified by crayfish SUMOylation, prompt the expression of viral genes, and ultimately benefit WSSV replication. Understanding of the mechanisms by which viruses exploit host components will greatly improve our knowledge of the virus-host “arms race” and contribute to the development of novel methods against virulent viruses.
PMCID: PMC3536383  PMID: 23097446

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