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Cell Cycle. 2010 Nov 1;9(21):4282-5. Epub 2010 Nov 22.

Redundancy and variation in the ubiquitin-mediated proteolytic targeting of a transcription factor.

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Department of Molecular Biophysics & Biochemistry, Yale University, New Haven, CT, USA.


As central components of the intricate networks of eukaryotic gene regulation, transcription factors are frequent targets of ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis. A well-known example is the budding yeast MATα2 (α2) transcriptional repressor, which functions as a master regulator of cell-type determination. Degradation of α2 by the ubiquitin-proteasome system is necessary for a phenotypic switch from one cell type to another. A surprisingly complex set of ubiquitin-protein conjugation mechanisms are involved. One pathway utilizes an integral-membrane ubiquitin ligase (E3) that also functions in endoplasmic reticulum-associated degradation (ERAD). Recently, we showed that a second α2 ubiquitylation pathway uses a heterodimeric E3 that, while able to bind the ubiquitin-like protein SUMO, directly recognizes non-sumoylated α2. Other transcription factors are now also known to be ubiquitylated by multiple mechanisms; as many as a dozen E3s have been implicated in degradation of the human p53 tumor suppressor, for example. We discuss general issues of redundancy and mechanistic variation in protein modification by ubiquitin.

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