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Immunol Rev. 2005 Oct;207:112-25.

Downregulation of cell surface receptors by the K3 family of viral and cellular ubiquitin E3 ligases.

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Department of Medicine, Cambridge Institute for Medical Research, Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK.


The mK3, K3, and K5 gene products from the gamma2 group of gamma-herpesviruses are the founding members of a family of membrane-associated ubiquitin E3 ligases. As part of the viral immunoevasion strategy, expression of these proteins results in a decrease in cell-surface major histocompatibility complex class I molecules and other immunoreceptors including intercellular adhesion molecule-1, CD86, and CD1d. These viral gene products all possess a characteristic cytosolic N-terminal RING-CH domain, responsible for ubiquitination of the target protein, and two membrane-spanning segments required for substrate specificity. For the majority of substrates, ubiquitination at the cell surface leads to rapid internalization and endolysosomal degradation, while mK3 ubiquitinates class I molecules associated with the peptide-loading complex resulting in proteasome-mediated degradation. Related viral genes with similar functions have been found in poxviruses, suggesting appropriation of these genes from the eukaryotic host. Ten membrane-associated RING-CH (MARCH) human genes with a similar organization have now been identified, and their overexpression leads to ubiquitination and downregulation of a variety of cell-surface immunoreceptors. While all the MARCH proteins are predicted to act as ubiquitin E3 ligases, their physiological role and substrates remain to be defined.

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