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J Biol Chem. 1989 Oct 5;264(28):16700-12.

Universality and structure of the N-end rule.

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  • 1Department of Biology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139.


Our previous work has shown that, in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, any of the eight stabilizing amino-terminal residues confers a long (greater than 20 h) half-life on a test protein beta-galactosidase (beta gal), whereas 12 destabilizing amino-terminal residues confer on beta gal half-lives from less than 3 min to 30 min. We now show that an analogous single-residue code (the N-end rule) operates in an in vitro system derived from mammalian reticulocytes. We also show that the N-end rule has a hierarchical structure. Specifically, amino-terminal Glu and Asp (and also Cys in reticulocytes) are secondary destabilizing residues in that they are destabilizing through their ability to be conjugated to primary destabilizing residues such as Arg. Amino-terminal Gln and Asn are tertiary destabilizing residues in that they are destabilizing through their ability to be converted, via selective deamidation, into secondary destabilizing residues Glu and Asp. Furthermore, in reticulocytes, distinct types of the N-end-recognizing activity are shown to be specific for three classes of primary destabilizing residues: basic (Arg, Lys, His), bulky hydrophobic (Phe, Leu, Trp, Tyr), and small uncharged (Ala, Ser, Thr). Features of the N-end rule in reticulocytes suggest that the exact form of the N-end rule may depend on the cell's physiological state, thereby providing a mechanism for selective destruction of preexisting proteins upon cell differentiation.

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