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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2009 Dec 8;106(49):20705-10. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907052106. Epub 2009 Nov 17.

Distinct ubiquitin ligases act sequentially for RNA polymerase II polyubiquitylation.

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  • 1Mechanisms of Transcription Laboratory, Clare Hall Laboratories, Cancer Research UK London Research Institute, Blanche Lane, South Mimms, Hertfordshire EN6 3LD, United Kingdom.


The proteasome degrades proteins modified by polyubiquitylation, so correctly controlled ubiquitylation is crucial to avoid unscheduled proteolysis of essential proteins. The mechanism regulating proteolysis of RNAPII has been controversial since two distinct ubiquitin ligases (E3s), Rsp5 (and its human homologue NEDD4) and Elongin-Cullin complex, have both been shown to be required for its DNA-damage-induced polyubiquitylation. Here we show that these E3s work sequentially in a two-step mechanism. First, Rsp5 adds mono-ubiquitin, or sometimes a ubiquitin chain linked via ubiquitin lysine 63 that does not trigger proteolysis. When produced, the K63 chain can be trimmed to mono-ubiquitylation by an Rsp5-associated ubiquitin protease, Ubp2. Based on this mono-ubiquitin moiety on RNAPII, an Elc1/Cul3 complex then produces a ubiquitin chain linked via lysine 48, which can trigger proteolysis. Likewise, for correct polyubiquitylation of human RNAPII, NEDD4 cooperates with the ElonginA/B/C-Cullin 5 complex. These data indicate that RNAPII polyubiquitylation requires cooperation between distinct, sequentially acting ubiquitin ligases, and raise the intriguing possibility that other members of the large and functionally diverse family of NEDD4-like ubiquitin ligases also require the assistance of a second E3 when targeting proteins for degradation.

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