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Science 309 (5731): 127-130

Copyright © 2005 by the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Ubiquitination on Nonlysine Residues by a Viral E3 Ubiquitin Ligase

Ken Cadwell, and Laurent Coscoy*

Abstract: Ubiquitination controls a broad range of cellular functions. The last step of the ubiquitination pathway is regulated by enzyme type 3 (E3) ubiquitin ligases. E3 enzymes are responsible for substrate specificity and catalyze the formation of an isopeptide bond between a lysine residue of the substrate (or the N terminus of the substrate) and ubiquitin. MIR1 and MIR2 are two E3 ubiquitin ligases encoded by Kaposi's sarcoma–associated herpesvirus that mediate the ubiquitination of major histocompatibility complex class I (MHC I) molecules and subsequent internalization. Here, we found that MIR1, but not MIR2, promoted down-regulation of MHC I molecules lacking lysine residues in their intracytoplasmic domain. In the presence of MIR1, these MHC I molecules were ubiquitinated, and their association with ubiquitin was sensitive to ß2-mercaptoethanol, unlike lysine-ubiquitin bonds. This form of ubiquitination required a cysteine residue in the intracytoplasmic tail of MHC I molecules. An MHC I molecule containing a single cysteine residue in an artificial glycine and alanine intracytoplasmic domain was endocytosed and degraded in the presence of MIR1. Thus, ubiquitination can occur on proteins lacking accessible lysines or an accessible N terminus.

Department of Molecular and Cell Biology, 142 Life Sciences Addition Room 3200, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.

* To whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: lcoscoy{at}

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