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J Biol Chem. 2005 Sep 9;280(36):31732-8. Epub 2005 Jul 12.

Ubiquitin manipulation by an E2 conjugating enzyme using a novel covalent intermediate.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, The University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario N6A 5C1, Canada.


Degradation of misfolded and damaged proteins by the 26 S proteasome requires the substrate to be tagged with a polyubiquitin chain. Assembly of polyubiquitin chains and subsequent substrate labeling potentially involves three enzymes, an E1, E2, and E3. E2 proteins are key enzymes and form a thioester intermediate through their catalytic cysteine with the C-terminal glycine (Gly76) of ubiquitin. This thioester intermediate is easily hydrolyzed in vitro and has eluded structural characterization. To overcome this, we have engineered a novel ubiquitin-E2 disulfide-linked complex by mutating Gly76 to Cys76 in ubiquitin. Reaction of Ubc1, an E2 from Saccharomyces cerevisiae, with this mutant ubiquitin resulted in an ubiquitin-E2 disulfide that could be purified and was stable for several weeks. Chemical shift perturbation analysis of the disulfide ubiquitin-Ubc1 complex by NMR spectroscopy reveals an ubiquitin-Ubc1 interface similar to that for the ubiquitin-E2 thioester. In addition to the typical E2 catalytic domain, Ubc1 contains an ubiquitin-associated (UBA) domain, and we have utilized NMR spectroscopy to demonstrate that in this disulfide complex the UBA domain is freely accessible to non-covalently bind a second molecule of ubiquitin. The ability of the Ubc1 to bind two ubiquitin molecules suggests that the UBA domain does not interact with the thioester-bound ubiquitin during polyubiquitin chain formation. Thus, construction of this novel ubiquitin-E2 disulfide provides a method to characterize structurally the first step in polyubiquitin chain assembly by Ubc1 and its related class II enzymes.

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