The ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme Cdc34 (cell division cycle 34) plays an essential role in promoting the G1–S-phase transition of the eukaryotic cell cycle and is phosphorylated in vivo. In the present study, we investigated if phosphorylation regulates Cdc34 function. We mapped the in vivo phosphorylation sites on budding yeast Cdc34 (yCdc34; Ser207 and Ser216) and human Cdc34 (hCdc34 Ser203, Ser222 and Ser231) to serine residues in the acidic tail domain, a region that is critical for Cdc34's cell cycle function. CK2 (protein kinase CK2) phosphorylates both yCdc34 and hCdc34 on these sites in vitro. CK2-mediated phosphorylation increased yCdc34 ubiquitination activity towards the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae Sic1 in vitro, when assayed in the presence of its cognate SCFCdc4 E3 ligase [where SCF is Skp1 (S-phase kinase-associated protein 1)/cullin/F-box]. Similarly, mutation of the yCdc34 phosphorylation sites to alanine, aspartate or glutamate residues altered Cdc34–SCFCdc4-mediated Sic1 ubiquitination activity. Similar results were obtained when yCdc34's ubiquitination activity was assayed in the absence of SCFCdc4, indicating that phosphorylation regulates the intrinsic catalytic activity of Cdc34. To evaluate the in vivo consequences of altered Cdc34 activity, wild-type yCdc34 and the phosphosite mutants were introduced into an S. cerevisiae cdc34 deletion strain and, following synchronization in G1-phase, progression through the cell cycle was monitored. Consistent with the increased ubiquitination activity in vitro, cells expressing the phosphosite mutants with higher catalytic activity exhibited accelerated cell cycle progression and Sic1 degradation. These studies demonstrate that CK2-mediated phosphorylation of Cdc34 on the acidic tail domain stimulates Cdc34–SCFCdc4 ubiquitination activity and cell cycle progression.

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