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Plant J. 1997 Feb;11(2):213-26.

The ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1) gene family in Arabidopsis thaliana.

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Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin-Madison 53706, USA.


Conjugation of multiple ubiquitins serves as a committed step in the degradation of a variety of intracellular eukaryotic proteins by the 26S proteasome. Conjugates are formed via a three-enzyme cascade; the initial step requires ubiquitin-activating enzyme (E1), which couples ubiquitin activation to ATP hydrolysis. Previously, we showed that many higher plants contain multiple E1 proteins and described several E1 genes from wheat. To facilitate understanding of the roles of the different plant E1s, we characterized the E1 gene and protein family from Arabidopsis thaliana. Arabidopsis E1s are encoded by two genes (AtUBA1 and AtUBA2) that synthesize approximately 123-kDa proteins with 81% amino acid sequence identity to each other and 44-75% sequence identity with confirmed E1s from other organisms. Like other E1 proteins, AtUBA1 and 2 contain a cysteine residue in the putative active site for forming the ubiquitin thiol-ester intermediate. Enzymatic analysis of the corresponding proteins expressed in Escherichia coli demonstrated that both proteins activate ubiquitin in an ATP-dependent reaction and transfer the activated ubiquitin to a variety of Arabidopsis E2s with near equal specificity. Expression studies by quantitative RT-PCR and histochemistry with transgenic plants containing AtUBA promoter-beta-glucuronidase-coding region fusions showed that the AtUBA1 and 2 genes are co-expressed in most, if not all, Arabidopsis tissues and cells. Collectively, the data indicate that E1 proteins, and presumably the rest of the ubiquitin pathway, are present throughout Arabidopsis. They also show that the AtUBA1 and 2 genes are not differentially expressed nor do they encode E1s with dramatically distinct enzymatic properties.

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