Thioester and oxyester linkages in the ubiquitin system


  • A. Ferri-Blazquez
  • E. Jarosch
  • T. Sommer


  • Methods in Molecular Biology


  • Methods Mol Biol 2602: 3-18


  • The traditional textbook describes ubiquitylation as the conjugation of ubiquitin to a target by forming a covalent bond connecting ubiquitin's carboxy-terminal glycine residue with an acceptor amino acid like lysine or amino-terminal methionine in the substrate protein. While this adequately depicts a significant fraction of cellular ubiquitylation processes, a growing number of ubiquitin modifications do not follow this rule. Recent data demonstrate that ubiquitin can also be efficiently attached to other amino acids, such as cysteine, serine, and threonine, via ester bonding. Initially observed for a virus-encoded ubiquitin ligase, which targets a cysteine residue in a host protein to initiate its degradation, ester-linked ubiquitylation is now shown to also drive regular cellular processes. These ubiquitylation events expand the complexity and diversity of ubiquitin signaling and broaden the capability of cellular messages in the so-called ubiquitin code. Still, questions on the prevalence, relevance, and involvement in physiological and cellular functions await clearing. In this review, we aim to summarize our knowledge on ester-linked ubiquitylation and introduce experimental strategies to circumvent technical issues that complicate analysis of this uncommon posttranslational modification.