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Mol Cell Biol. 1989 Jan;9(1):268-77.

UbiA, the major polyubiquitin locus in Caenorhabditis elegans, has unusual structural features and is constitutively expressed.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Ubiquitin is a multifunctional 76-amino-acid protein which plays critical roles in many aspects of cellular metabolism. In Caenorhabditis elegans, the major source of ubiquitin RNA is the polyubiquitin locus, UbiA. UbiA is transcribed as a polycistronic mRNA which contains 11 tandem repeats of ubiquitin sequence and possesses a 2-amino-acid carboxy-terminal extension on the final repeat. The UbiA locus possesses several unusual features not seen in the ubiquitin genes of other organisms studied to date. Mature UbiA mRNA acquires a 22-nucleotide leader sequence via a trans-splicing reaction involving a 100-nucleotide splice leader RNA derived from a different chromosome. UbiA is also unique among known polyubiquitin genes in containing four cis-spliced introns within its coding sequence. Thus, UbiA is one of a small class of genes found in higher eucaryotes whose heterogeneous nuclear RNA undergoes both cis and trans splicing. The putative promoter region of UbiA contains a number of potential regulatory elements: (i) a cytosine-rich block, (ii) two sequences resembling the heat shock regulatory element, and (iii) a palindromic sequence with homology to the DNA-binding site of the mammalian steroid hormone receptor. The expression of the UbiA gene has been studied under various heat shock conditions and has been monitored during larval moulting and throughout the major stages of development. These studies indicate that the expression of the UbiA gene is not inducible by acute or chronic heat shock and does not appear to be under nutritional or developmental regulation in C. elegans.

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