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Here, we show that E2-EPF ubiquitin carrier protein (UCP) elongated E3-independent polyubiquitin chains on the lysine residues of von Hippel-Lindau protein (pVHL) and its own lysine residues both in vitro and in vivo. The initiation of the ubiquitin reaction depended on not only Lys11 linkage but also the Lys6, Lys48 and Lys63 residues of ubiquitin, which were involved in polyubiquitin chain formation on UCP itself. UCP self-association occurred through the UBC domain, which also contributed to the interaction with pVHL. The polyubiquitin chains appeared on the N-terminus of UCP in vivo, which indicated that the N-terminus of UCP contains target lysines for polyubiquitination. The Lys76 residue of UCP was the most critical site for auto-ubiquitination, whereas the polyubiquitin chain formation on pVHL occurred on all three of its lysines (Lys159, Lys171 and Lys196). A UCP mutant in which Cys118 was changed to alanine (UCPC118A) did not form a polyubiquitin chain but did strongly accumulate mono- and di-ubiquitin via auto-ubiquitination. Polyubiquitin chain formation required the coordination of Cys95 and Cys118 between two interacting molecules. The mechanism of the polyubiquitin chain reaction of UCP may involve the transfer of ubiquitin from Cys95 to Cys118 by trans-thiolation, with polyubiquitin chains forming at Cys118 by reversible thioester bonding. The polyubiquitin chains are then moved to the lysine residues of the substrate by irreversible isopeptide bonding. During the elongation of the ubiquitin chain, an active Cys118 residue is required in both parts of UCP, namely, the catalytic enzyme and the substrate. In conclusion, UCP possesses not only E2 ubiquitin conjugating enzyme activity but also E3 ubiquitin ligase activity, and Cys118 is critical for polyubiquitin chain formation.


Jung Hwa Lim, Hee Won Shin, Kyung-Sook Chung, Nam-Soon Kim, Ju Hee Kim, Hong-Ryul Jung, Dong-Soo Im, Cho-Rok Jung. E2-EPF UCP Possesses E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Activity via Its Cysteine 118 Residue. PloS one. 2016;11(9):e0163710

PMID: 27685940

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