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J Biol Chem. 2006 Oct 6;281(40):30063-71. Epub 2006 Jul 29.

Ubiquitination of MHC class I heavy chains is essential for dislocation by human cytomegalovirus-encoded US2 but not US11.

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  • 1Department of Medical Microbiology, Leiden University Medical Center, Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden, The Netherlands.


The human cytomegalovirus-encoded glycoproteins US2 and US11 target newly synthesized major histocompatibility complex class I heavy chains for degradation by mediating their dislocation from the endoplasmic reticulum back into the cytosol, where they are degraded by proteasomes. A functional ubiquitin system is required for US2- and US11-dependent dislocation of the class I heavy chains. It has been assumed that the class I heavy chain itself is ubiquitinated during the dislocation reaction. To test this hypothesis, all lysines within the class I heavy chain were substituted. The lysine-less class I molecules could no longer be dislocated by US2 despite the fact that the interaction between the two proteins was maintained. Interestingly, US11 was still capable of dislocating the lysine-less heavy chains into the cytosol. Ubiquitination does not necessarily require lysine residues but can also occur at the N terminus of a protein. To investigate the potential role of N-terminal ubiquitination in heavy chain dislocation, a lysine-less ubiquitin moiety was fused to the N terminus of the class I molecule. This lysine-less fusion protein was still dislocated in the presence of US11. Ubiquitination could not be detected in vitro, either for the lysine-less heavy chains or for the lysine-less ubiquitin-heavy chain fusion protein. Our data show that although dislocation of the lysineless class I heavy chains requires a functional ubiquitin system, the heavy chain itself does not serve as the ubiquitin acceptor. This finding sheds new light on the role of the ubiquitin system in the dislocation process.

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