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Concept: Ubiquitin ligase


Cullin E3 ligases are the largest family of ubiquitin ligases with diverse cellular functions. One of seven cullin proteins serves as a scaffold protein for the assembly of the multisubunit ubiquitin ligase complex. Cullin binds the RING domain protein Rbx1/Rbx2 via its C-terminus and a cullin-specific substrate adaptor protein via its N-terminus. In the Cul3 ubiquitin ligase complex, Cul3 substrate receptors contain a BTB/POZ domain. Several studies have established that Cul3-based E3 ubiquitin ligases exist in a dimeric state which is required for binding of a number of substrates and has been suggested to promote ubiquitin transfer. In two different models, Cul3 has been proposed to dimerize either via BTB/POZ domain dependent substrate receptor homodimerization or via direct interaction between two Cul3 proteins that is mediated by Nedd8 modification of one of the dimerization partners. In this study, we show that the majority of the Cul3 proteins in cells exist as dimers or multimers and that Cul3 self-association is mediated via the Cul3 N-terminus while the Cul3 C-terminus is not required. Furthermore, we show that Cul3 self-association is independent of its modification with Nedd8. Our results provide evidence for BTB substrate receptor dependent Cul3 dimerization which is likely to play an important role in promoting substrate ubiquitination.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Enzyme, Dimer, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, SCF complex, RING finger domain


The 11 members of the Membrane-associated RING-CH (MARCH) ubiquitin ligase family are relatively unexplored. Upon exogenous (over)expression, a number of these ligases can affect the trafficking of membrane molecules, but only in case of MARCH-1 endogenous functions have been demonstrated. Of the other endogenous MARCH proteins, no functions or substrates are known. We report here that TRAIL-receptor ®1 is a physiological substrate of the endogenous MARCH-8 ligase. The two human TRAIL death receptors play a role in immunosurveillance and are targets for cancer therapy, since they selectively induce apoptosis in tumor cells. We demonstrate that TRAIL-R1 is downregulated from the cell surface, with great preference over TRAIL-R2, by exogenous expression of MARCH ligases that are implicated in endosomal trafficking, such as MARCH-1 and -8. MARCH-8 attenuated TRAIL-R1 cell surface expression and apoptosis signaling by virtue of its ligase activity. This suggested that ubiquitination of TRAIL-R1 was instrumental in its downregulation by MARCH-8. Indeed, in cells with endogenous MARCH expression, TRAIL-R1 was ubiquitinated at steady-state, with the conserved membrane-proximal lysine 273 as interaction and potential acceptor site. This residue was also essential for the interaction of TRAIL-R1 with MARCH-1 and MARCH-8 and its downregulation by these ligases. Gene silencing identified MARCH-8 as the endogenous ligase that ubiquitinates TRAIL-R1 and attenuates its cell surface expression. These findings reveal that endogenous MARCH-8 regulates the steady-state cell surface expression of TRAIL-R1.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Cancer, Enzyme, Posttranslational modification, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase


Highly pathogenic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) has developed strategies to inhibit host immune recognition. We identify cellular E3 ubiquitin ligase ring-finger and CHY zinc-finger domain-containing 1 (RCHY1) as an interacting partner of the viral SARS-unique domain (SUD) and papain-like protease (PL(pro)), and, as a consequence, the involvement of cellular p53 as antagonist of coronaviral replication. Residues 95-144 of RCHY1 and 389-652 of SUD (SUD-NM) subdomains are crucial for interaction. Association with SUD increases the stability of RCHY1 and augments RCHY1-mediated ubiquitination as well as degradation of p53. The calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II delta (CAMK2D), which normally influences RCHY1 stability by phosphorylation, also binds to SUD. In vivo phosphorylation shows that SUD does not regulate phosphorylation of RCHY1 via CAMK2D. Similarly to SUD, the PL(pro)s from SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and HCoV-NL63 physically interact with and stabilize RCHY1, and thus trigger degradation of endogenous p53. The SARS-CoV papain-like protease is encoded next to SUD within nonstructural protein 3. A SUD-PL(pro) fusion interacts with RCHY1 more intensively and causes stronger p53 degradation than SARS-CoV PL(pro) alone. We show that p53 inhibits replication of infectious SARS-CoV as well as of replicons and human coronavirus NL63. Hence, human coronaviruses antagonize the viral inhibitor p53 via stabilizing RCHY1 and promoting RCHY1-mediated p53 degradation. SUD functions as an enhancer to strengthen interaction between RCHY1 and nonstructural protein 3, leading to a further increase in in p53 degradation. The significance of these findings is that down-regulation of p53 as a major player in antiviral innate immunity provides a long-sought explanation for delayed activities of respective genes.

Concepts: Posttranslational modification, Severe acute respiratory syndrome, Enzyme inhibitor, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, SARS coronavirus, Coronavirus


Immunomodulatory drugs bind to cereblon (CRBN) to confer differentiated substrate specificity on the CRL4(CRBN) E3 ubiquitin ligase. Here we report the identification of a new cereblon modulator, CC-885, with potent anti-tumour activity. The anti-tumour activity of CC-885 is mediated through the cereblon-dependent ubiquitination and degradation of the translation termination factor GSPT1. Patient-derived acute myeloid leukaemia tumour cells exhibit high sensitivity to CC-885, indicating the clinical potential of this mechanism. Crystallographic studies of the CRBN-DDB1-CC-885-GSPT1 complex reveal that GSPT1 binds to cereblon through a surface turn containing a glycine residue at a key position, interacting with both CC-885 and a ‘hotspot’ on the cereblon surface. Although GSPT1 possesses no obvious structural, sequence or functional homology to previously known cereblon substrates, mutational analysis and modelling indicate that the cereblon substrate Ikaros uses a similar structural feature to bind cereblon, suggesting a common motif for substrate recruitment. These findings define a structural degron underlying cereblon ‘neosubstrate’ selectivity, and identify an anti-tumour target rendered druggable by cereblon modulation.

Concepts: Enzyme, Enzyme substrate, Acute myeloid leukemia, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, Ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, Complex analysis


Cullin-RING ligases (CRLs) are ubiquitin E3 enzymes with variable substrate-adaptor and -receptor subunits. All CRLs are activated by modification of the cullin subunit with the ubiquitin-like protein Nedd8 (neddylation). The protein CAND1 (Cullin-associated-Nedd8-dissociated-1) also promotes CRL activity, even though it only interacts with inactive ligase complexes. The molecular mechanism underlying this behaviour remains largely unclear. Here, we find that yeast SCF (Skp1-Cdc53-F-box) Cullin-RING complexes are remodelled in a CAND1-dependent manner, when cells are switched from growth in fermentable to non-fermentable carbon sources. Mechanistically, CAND1 promotes substrate adaptor release following SCF deneddylation by the COP9 signalosome (CSN). CSN- or CAND1-mutant cells fail to release substrate adaptors. This delays the formation of new complexes during SCF reactivation and results in substrate degradation defects. Our results shed light on how CAND1 regulates CRL activity and demonstrate that the cullin neddylation-deneddylation cycle is not only required to activate CRLs, but also to regulate substrate specificity through dynamic substrate adaptor exchange.

Concepts: Protein, Cell nucleus, Metabolism, Enzyme, Yeast, Ubiquitin ligase, SCF complex, CUL1


Interpreting variants of uncertain significance (VUS) is a central challenge in medical genetics. One approach is to experimentally measure the functional consequences of VUS, but to date this approach has been post hoc and low-throughput. Here we use massively parallel assays to measure the effects of nearly 2,000 missense substitutions in the RING domain of BRCA1 on its E3 ubiquitin ligase activity and its binding to the BARD1 RING domain. From the resulting scores, we generate a model to predict the capacities of full-length BRCA1 variants to support homology-directed DNA repair, the essential role of BRCA1 in tumor suppression, and show that it outperforms widely used biological-effect prediction algorithms. We envision that massively parallel functional assays may facilitate the prospective interpretation of variants observed in clinical sequencing.

Concepts: Scientific method, DNA repair, Hypothesis, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, BRCA1, RING finger domain


The degradation of intracellular proteins is targeted by ubiquitin via non- lysosomal proteolytic pathway in cell system. These ubiquitin molecules have been found to be conserved from yeast to humans. Ubiquitin proteasome machinery utilises ATP and other mechanisms for degrading proteins of cytosol as well as nucleus. This process of ubiquitination is regulated by activating the E3 enzyme ligase, involved in phosphorylation. In humans, proteins which regulate the cell cycle are controlled by ubiquitin; therefore the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway can be targeted for novel anti-cancer strategies. Dysregulation of the components of the ubiquitin system has been linked to many diseases like cancer and inflammation. The primary triggering mechanism (apoptosis) of these diseases can also be induced when TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) binds to its specific receptor DR4 and DR5. In this review, the emerging prospects and importance of ubiquitin proteasome pathway as an evolving anticancer strategy have been discussed. Current challenges in the field of drug discovery have also been discussed on the basis of recent patents on cancer diagnosis and therapeutics.

Concepts: Gene expression, Cell, Cytoplasm, Cell cycle, P53, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase


The 26S proteasome is responsible for the selective, ATP-dependent degradation of polyubiquitinated cellular proteins. Removal of ubiquitin chains from targeted substrates at the proteasome is a prerequisite for substrate processing and is accomplished by Rpn11, a deubiquitinase within the ‘lid’ sub-complex. Prior to the lid’s incorporation into the proteasome, Rpn11 deubiquitinase activity is inhibited to prevent unwarranted deubiquitination of polyubiquitinated proteins. Here we present the atomic model of the isolated lid sub-complex, as determined by cryo-electron microscopy at 3.5 Å resolution, revealing how Rpn11 is inhibited through its interaction with a neighboring lid subunit, Rpn5. Through mutagenesis of specific residues, we describe the network of interactions that are required to stabilize this inhibited state. These results provide significant insight into the intricate mechanisms of proteasome assembly, outlining the substantial conformational rearrangements that occur during incorporation of the lid into the 26S holoenzyme, which ultimately activates the deubiquitinase for substrate degradation.

Concepts: Proteins, Protein, Protein structure, Enzyme, Atom, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase


The ubiquitin-proteasome pathway (UPP) is the main route of protein degradation in eukaryotic cells and is a common mechanism through which numerous cellular pathways are regulated. To date, several reverse genetics techniques have been reported that harness the power of the UPP for selectively reducing the levels of otherwise stable proteins. However, each of these approaches has been narrowly developed for a single substrate and cannot be easily extended to other protein substrates of interest. To address this shortcoming, we created a generalizable protein knockout method by engineering protein chimeras called ubiquibodies that combine the activity of E3 ubiquitin ligases with designer binding proteins to steer virtually any protein to the UPP for degradation. Specifically, we reprogrammed the substrate specificity of a modular human E3 ubiquitin ligase called CHIP (carboxyl-terminus of Hsc70-interacting protein) by replacing its natural substrate-binding domain with a single-chain Fv (scFv) intrabody or a fibronectin type III domain (FN3) monobody that target their respective antigens with high specificity and affinity. Engineered ubiquibodies reliably transferred ubiquitin to surface exposed lysines on target proteins and even catalyzed the formation of biologically relevant polyubiquitin chains. Following ectopic expression of ubiquibodies in mammalian cells, specific and systematic depletion of desired target proteins was achieved, while the levels of one of CHIP’s natural substrates were unaffected. Taken together, engineered ubiquibodies offer a simple, reproducible, and customizable means for directly removing specific cellular proteins through accelerated proteolysis.

Concepts: Protein, Enzyme, Posttranslational modification, Proteasome, Ubiquitin, Ubiquitin ligase, Ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, Ubiquitin-activating enzyme


Numb functions as an oncosuppressor by inhibiting Notch signaling and stabilizing p53. This latter effect depends on the interaction of Numb with Mdm2, the E3 ligase that ubiquitinates p53 and commits it to degradation. In breast cancer (BC), loss of Numb results in a reduction of p53-mediated responses including sensitivity to genotoxic drugs and maintenance of homeostasis in the stem cell compartment. In this study, we show that the Numb-Mdm2 interaction represents a fuzzy complex mediated by a short Numb sequence encompassing its alternatively spliced exon 3 (Ex3), which is necessary and sufficient to inhibit Mdm2 and prevent p53 degradation. Alterations in the Numb splicing pattern are critical in BC as shown by increased chemoresistance of tumors displaying reduced levels of Ex3-containing isoforms, an effect that could be mechanistically linked to diminished p53 levels. A reduced level of Ex3-less Numb isoforms independently predicts poor outcome in BCs harboring wild-type p53. Thus, we have uncovered an important mechanism of chemoresistance and progression in p53-competent BCs.

Concepts: Cancer, Breast cancer, Oncology, BRCA2, P53, Ubiquitin ligase, Mdm2, Necessary and sufficient condition