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EMBO J. 2002 May 15;21(10):2418-29.

Ubiquitylation of MHC class I by the K3 viral protein signals internalization and TSG101-dependent degradation.

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Department of Pathology, Division of Immunology, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 2XY, UK.


The Kaposi's sarcoma-associated herpes virus gene product K3 (KK3) subverts the MHC class I antigen presentation pathway by downregulating MHC class I from the plasma membrane. We now show that KK3 associates with MHC class I molecules and promotes ubiquitylation of class I after export from the endoplasmic reticulum. Ubiquitylation requires the KK3 N-terminal plant homeodomain and provides the signal for class I internalization at the plasma membrane. Once internalized, ubiquitylated MHC class I is targeted to the late endocytic pathway, where it is degraded. Depletion by small interfering RNA of TSG101, a ubiquitin enzyme 2 variant protein involved in late endosomal sorting, prevents class I degradation and preserves cell surface class I expression in KK3-expressing cells. These results suggest a mechanism by which the KK3-induced class I ubiquitylation provides a signal for both internalization and sorting to the late endosomal pathway for degradation. KK3 is the first viral gene product that subverts the trafficking of a host protein via the ubiquitin-dependent endosomal sorting machinery.

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