BACKGROUND: E3 ubiquitin ligases play critical roles in regulating cellular signaling pathways by inducing ubiquitylation of key components. RNF111/Arkadia is a RING E3 ubiquitin ligase that activates TGF-beta signaling by inducing ubiquitylation and proteasomal degradation of the transcriptional repressor SKIL/SnoN. In this study, we have sought to identify novel regulators of the E3 ubiquitin ligase activity of RNF111 by searching for proteins that specifically interacts with its RING domain.
RESULTS: We found that UBXN7, a member of the UBA-UBX family, directly interacts with the RING domain of RNF111 or its related E3 RNF165/ARK2C that shares high sequence homology with RNF111. We showed that UBXN7 docks on RNF111 or RNF165 RING domain through its UAS thioredoxin-like domain. Overexpression of UBXN7 or its UAS domain increases endogenous RNF111, while an UBXN7 mutant devoid of UAS domain has no effect. Conversely, depletion of UBXN7 decreases RNF111 protein level. As a consequence, we found that UBXN7 can modulate degradation of the RNF111 substrate SKIL in response to TGF-beta signaling. We further unveiled this mechanism of regulation by showing that docking of the UAS domain of UBXN7 inhibits RNF111 ubiquitylation by preventing interaction of the RING domain with the E2 conjugating enzymes. By analyzing the interactome of the UAS domain of UBXN7, we identified that it also interacts with the RING domain of the E3 TOPORS and similarly regulates its E3 ubiquitin ligase activity by impairing E2 binding.
CONCLUSIONS: Taken together, our results demonstrate that UBXN7 acts as a direct regulator for the E3 ubiquitin ligases RNF111, RNF165, and TOPORS and reveal that a thioredoxin-like domain can dock on specific RING domains to regulate their E3 ubiquitin ligase activity.