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Mol Cell Biol. 1996 Aug;16(8):4064-72.

A novel rat homolog of the Saccharomyces cerevisiae ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes UBC4 and UBC5 with distinct biochemical features is induced during spermatogenesis.

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  • 1Polypeptide Laboratory, Department of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


The Saccharomyces cerevisiae ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes (E2s) UBC4 and UBC5 are essential for degradation of short-lived and abnormal proteins. We previously identified rat cDNAs encoding two E2s with strong sequence similarity to UBC4 and UBC5. These E2 isoforms are widely expressed in rat tissues, consistent with a fundamental cellular function for these E2s. We now report a new isoform, 8A, which despite having >91% amino acid identity with the other isoforms, shows several novel features. Expression of the 8A isoform appears restricted to the testis, is absent in early life, but is induced during puberty. Hypophysectomy reduced expression of the 8A isoform. In situ hybridization studies indicated that 8A mRNA is expressed mainly in round spermatids. Immunoblot analyses showed that 8A protein is found not only in subfractions of germ cells enriched in round spermatids but also in subfractions containing residual bodies extruded from more mature elongated spermatids, indicating that the protein possesses a longer half-life than the mRNA. Unlike all previously identified mammalian and plant homologs of S. cerevisiae UBC4, which possess a basic pI, the 8A isoform is unique in possessing an acidic pI. The small differences in sequence between the 8A isoform and other rat isoforms conferred differences in biochemical function. The 8A isoform was less effective than an isoform with a basic pI or ineffective in conjugating ubiquitin to certain fractions of testis proteins. Thus, although multiple isoforms of a specific E2 may exist to ensure performance of a critical cellular function, our data demonstrate, for the first time, that multiple genes also permit highly specialized regulation of expression of specific isoforms and that subtle differences in E2 primary structure can dictate conjugation of ubiquitin to different subsets of cellular proteins.

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