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J Biol Chem. 2002 May 3;277(18):15758-65. Epub 2002 Feb 22.

Activation of UBC5 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme by the RING finger of ROC1 and assembly of active ubiquitin ligases by all cullins.

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  • 1Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7295, USA.


Protein ubiquitination plays an important role in regulating the abundance and conformation of a broad range of eukaryotic proteins. This process involves a cascade of enzymes including ubiquitin-activating enzymes (E1), ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2), and ubiquitin ligases (E3). E1 and E2 represent two families of structurally related proteins and are relatively well characterized. In contrast, the nature and mechanism of E3, proposed to contain activities in catalyzing isopeptide bond formation (ubiquitin ligation) and substrate targeting, remains inadequately understood. Two major families of E3 ubiquitin ligases, the HECT (for homologous to E6-AP C terminus) family and the RING family, have been identified that utilize distinct mechanisms in promoting isopeptide bond formation. Here, we showed that purified RING finger domain of ROC1, an essential subunit of SKP1-cullin/CDC53-F box protein ubiquitin ligases, was sufficient to activate UBCH5c to synthesize polyubiquitin chains. The sequence flanking the RING finger in ROC1 did not contribute to UBCH5c activation, but was required for binding with CUL1. We demonstrated that all cullins, through their binding with ROC proteins, constituted active ubiquitin ligases, suggesting the existence in vivo of a large number of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases. These results are consistent with the notion that the RING finger domains allosterically activate E2. We suggest that RING-E2, rather than cullin-RING, constitutes the catalytic core of the ubiquitin ligase and that one major function of the cullin subunit is to assemble the RING-E2 catalytic core and substrates together.

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