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Biochemistry. 2013 Jun 18;52(24):4184-92. doi: 10.1021/bi400254f. Epub 2013 Jun 7.

Modulation of the CXC chemokine receptor 4 agonist activity of ubiquitin through C-terminal protein modification.

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  • 1Department of Surgery, Loyola University Chicago, Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, Illinois 60153, USA.


Extracellular ubiquitin has recently been described as a CXC chemokine receptor (CXCR) 4 agonist. Studies on the structure-function relationship suggested that the C-terminus of ubiquitin facilitates CXCR4 activation. It remains unknown, however, whether C-terminal processing of ubiquitin could be biologically relevant and whether modifications of the ubiquitin C-terminus can modulate CXCR4 activation. We show that C-terminal truncated ubiquitin antagonizes ubiquitin and stromal cell-derived factor (SDF)-1α induced effects on cell signaling and function. Reduction of cell surface expression of insulin degrading enzyme (IDE), which cleaves the C-terminal di-Gly of ubiquitin, enhances ubiquitin induced reduction of cAMP levels in BV2 and THP-1 cells, but does not influence changes in cAMP levels in response to SDF-1α. Reduction of cell surface IDE expression in THP-1 cells also increases the chemotactic activity of ubiquitin. As compared with native ubiquitin, C-terminal Tyr extension of ubiquitin results in reduced CXCR4 mediated effects on cellular cAMP levels and abolishes chemotactic activity. Replacement of C-terminal di-Gly of ubiquitin with di-Val or di-Arg enhances CXCR4 mediated effects on cAMP levels and the di-Arg substitution exerts increased chemotactic activity, when compared with wild type ubiquitin. The chemotactic activities of the di-Val and di-Arg mutants and their effects on cAMP levels can be antagonized with C-terminal truncated ubiquitin. These data suggest that the development of CXCR4 ligands with enhanced agonist activities is possible and that C-terminal processing of ubiquitin could constitute a biological mechanism, which regulates termination of receptor signaling.

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