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To prevent accumulation of misfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum, chaperones perform quality control on newly translated proteins and redirect misfolded proteins to the cytosol for degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. This pathway is called ER-associated protein degradation (ERAD). The human cytomegalovirus protein US2 induces accelerated ERAD of HLA class I molecules to prevent immune recognition of infected cells by CD8+ T cells. Using US2-mediated HLA-I degradation as a model for ERAD, we performed a genome-wide CRISPR/Cas9 library screen to identify novel cellular factors associated with ERAD. Besides the identification of known players such as TRC8, p97, and UBE2G2, the ubiquitin-fold modifier1 (UFM1) pathway was found to affect degradation of HLA-I. UFMylation is a post-translational modification resembling ubiquitination. Whereas we observe ubiquitination of HLA-I, no UFMylation was detected on HLA-I or several other proteins involved in degradation of HLA-I, suggesting that the UFM1 pathway impacts ERAD in a different manner than ubiquitin. Interference with the UFM1 pathway seems to specifically inhibit the ER-to-cytosol dislocation of HLA-I. In the absence of detectable UFMylation of HLA-I, UFM1 may contribute to US2-mediated HLA-I degradation by misdirecting protein sorting indirectly. Mass spectrometry analysis of US2-expressing cells showed that ribosomal proteins are a major class of proteins undergoing extensive UFMylation; the role of these changes in protein degradation may be indirect and remains to be established.


A B C Schuren, I G J Boer, E M Bouma, M L Van de Weijer, A I Costa, P Hubel, A Pichlmair, R J Lebbink, E J H J Wiertz. The UFM1 Pathway Impacts HCMV US2-Mediated Degradation of HLA Class I. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland). 2021 Jan 08;26(2)

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PMID: 33430125

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