Regulation of RNF144A E3 ubiquitin ligase activity by self-association through its transmembrane domain [Cell Biology]

July 27th, 2015 by Ho, S.-R., Lee, Y.-J., Lin, W.-C.

RNF144A, an E3 ubiquitin ligase for DNA-PKcs, can promote DNA damage-induced cell apoptosis. Here we characterize an important regulation of RNF144A through its transmembrane (TM) domain. The TM domain of RNF144A is highly conserved among species. Deletion of the TM domain abolishes its membrane localization and also significantly reduces its ubiquitin ligase activity. Further evidence shows that the TM domain is required for RNF144A self-association and the self-association may be partially mediated through a classic GXXXG interaction motif. A mutant RNF144A-G252L/G256L (in the G252XXXG256 motif) preserves membrane localization, but is defective in self-association and ubiquitin ligase activity. On the other hand, a membrane localization loss mutant of RNF144A still retains self-association and E3 ligase activity, which can be blocked by additional G252L/G256L mutations. Therefore, our data demonstrate that the TM domain of RNF144A has at least two independent roles, membrane localization and E3 ligase activation, to regulate its physiological function. This regulatory mechanism may be applicable to other RBR (RING1-IBR-RING2) E3 ubiquitin ligases since first, RNF144B also self-associates; second, all five TM-containing RBR E3 ligases, including RNF144A&B, RNF19A/Dorfin, RNF19B and RNF217, have the RBR-TM(GXXXG) superstructure. Mutations of the GXXXG motifs in RNF144A and RNF217 have also be found in human cancers, including G252D mutation of RNF144A. Interestingly, RNF144A-G252D still preserves self-association and ubiquitin ligase activity, but loses membrane localization and is rapidly turned over. In conclusion, both proper membrane localization and self-association are important for RNF144A function.