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Genes Dev. 2000 Mar 15;14(6):655-65.

The KEN box: an APC recognition signal distinct from the D box targeted by Cdh1.

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  • 1Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115 USA.


The ordered progression through the cell cycle depends on regulating the abundance of several proteins through ubiquitin-mediated proteolysis. Degradation is precisely timed and specific. One key component of the degradation system, the anaphase promoting complex (APC), is a ubiquitin protein ligase. It is activated both during mitosis and late in mitosis/G(1), by the WD repeat proteins Cdc20 and Cdh1, respectively. These activators target distinct sets of substrates. Cdc20-APC requires a well-defined destruction box (D box), whereas Cdh1-APC confers a different and as yet unidentified specificity. We have determined the sequence specificity for Cdh1-APC using two assays, ubiquitination in a completely defined and purified system and degradation promoted by Cdh1-APC in Xenopus extracts. Cdc20 is itself a Cdh1-APC substrate. Vertebrate Cdc20 lacks a D box and therefore is recognized by Cdh1-APC through a different sequence. By analysis of Cdc20 as a substrate, we have identified a new recognition signal. This signal, composed of K-E-N, serves as a general targeting signal for Cdh1-APC. Like the D box, it is transposable to other proteins. Using the KEN box as a template, we have identified cell cycle genes Nek2 and B99 as additional Cdh1-APC substrates. Mutation in the KEN box stabilizes all three proteins against ubiquitination and degradation.

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