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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1999 Oct 26;96(22):12436-41.

Identification of the von Hippel-lindau tumor-suppressor protein as part of an active E3 ubiquitin ligase complex.

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  • 1Department of Molecular Biology, Graduate School of Biostudies, Kyoto University, Kyoto, 606-8501, Japan.


Mutations of von Hippel-Lindau disease (VHL) tumor-suppressor gene product (pVHL) are found in patients with dominant inherited VHL syndrome and in the vast majority of sporadic clear cell renal carcinomas. The function of the pVHL protein has not been clarified. pVHL has been shown to form a complex with elongin B and elongin C (VBC) and with cullin (CUL)-2. In light of the structural analogy of VBC-CUL-2 to SKP1-CUL-1-F-box ubiquitin ligases, the ubiquitin ligase activity of VBC-CUL-2 was examined in this study. We show that VBC-CUL-2 exhibits ubiquitin ligase activity, and we identified UbcH5a, b, and c, but not CDC34, as the ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes of the VBC-CUL-2 ubiquitin ligase. The protein Rbx1/ROC1 enhances ligase activity of VBC-CUL-2 as it does in the SKP1-CUL-1-F-box protein ligase complex. We also found that pVHL associates with two proteins, p100 and p220, which migrate at a similar molecular weight as two major bands in the ubiquitination assay. Furthermore, naturally occurring pVHL missense mutations, including mutants capable of forming a complex with elongin B-elongin C-CUL-2, fail to associate with p100 and p220 and cannot exhibit the E3 ligase activity. These results suggest that pVHL might be the substrate recognition subunit of the VBC-CUL-2 E3 ligase. This is also, to our knowledge, the first example of a human tumor-suppressor protein being directly involved in the ubiquitin conjugation system which leads to the targeted degradation of substrate proteins.

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