In vitro studies reveal a sequential mode of chain processing by the yeast SUMO-specific protease Ulp2 [Protein Synthesis and Degradation]

April 1st, 2015 by Eckhoff, J., Dohmen, R. J.

Sumoylation is a post-translational modification essential in most eukaryotes that regulates stability, localization, activity or interaction of a multitude of proteins. It is a reversible process wherein counteracting ligases and proteases, respectively, mediate the conjugation and deconjugation of SUMO molecules to/from target proteins. Apart from attachment of single SUMO moieties to targets, formation of poly-SUMO chains occurs by the attachment of additional SUMO molecules to lysine residues in the N-terminal extensions of SUMO. In Saccharomyces cerevisiae, there are apparently only two SUMO(Smt3)-specific proteases: Ulp1 and Ulp2. Ulp2 has been shown to be important for the control of poly-SUMO conjugates in cells and to dismantle SUMO chains in vitro, but the mechanism by which it acts remains to be elucidated. Applying an in vitro approach, we found that Ulp2 acts sequentially rather than stochastically, processing substrate-linked poly-SUMO chains from their distal ends down to two linked SUMO moieties. Furthermore, three linked SUMO units turned out to be the minimum length of a substrate-linked chain required for efficient binding to and processing by Ulp2. Our data suggest that Ulp2 disassembles SUMO chains by removing one SUMO moiety at a time from their ends (exo mechanism). Apparently, Ulp2 recognizes surfaces at or near the N-terminus of the distal SUMO moiety, as attachments to this end significantly reduce cleavage efficiency. Our studies suggest that Ulp2 controls the dynamic range of SUMO chain lengths by trimming them from the distal ends.