Journal of cell science

ERAD of proteins containing aberrant transmembrane domains requires ubiquitylation of cytoplasmic lysine residues.

PMID 26446255


Clearance of misfolded proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is mediated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system in a process known as ER-associated degradation (ERAD). The mechanisms through which proteins containing aberrant transmembrane domains are degraded by ERAD are poorly understood. To address this question, we generated model ERAD substrates based on CD8 with either a non-native transmembrane domain but a folded ER luminal domain (CD8(TMD*)), or the native transmembrane domain but a misfolded luminal domain (CD8(LUM*)). Although both chimeras were degraded by ERAD, we found that the location of the folding defect determined the initial site of ubiquitylation. Ubiquitylation of cytoplasmic lysine residues was required for the extraction of CD8(TMD*) from the ER membrane during ERAD, whereas CD8(LUM*) continued to be degraded in the absence of cytoplasmic lysine residues. Cytoplasmic lysine residues were also required for degradation of an additional ERAD substrate containing an unassembled transmembrane domain and when a non-native transmembrane domain was introduced into CD8(LUM*). Our results suggest that proteins with defective transmembrane domains are removed from the ER through a specific ERAD mechanism that depends upon ubiquitylation of cytoplasmic lysine residues.