Ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like proteins are conjugated to a wide variety of target proteins that play roles in all biological processes. Target proteins are conjugated to ubiquitin monomers or to ubiquitin polymers that form via all seven internal lysine residues of ubiquitin. The fate of these target proteins is controlled in a chain architecture-dependent manner. SUMO (small ubiquitin-related modifier) shares the ability of ubiquitin to form chains via internal SUMOylation sites. Interestingly, a SUMO-binding site in Ubc9 is important for SUMO chain synthesis. Similar to ubiquitin–polymer cleavage by USPs (ubiquitin-specific proteases), SUMO chain formation is reversible. SUMO polymers are cleaved by the SUMO proteases SENP6 [SUMO/sentrin/SMT3 (suppressor of mif two 3)-specific peptidase 6], SENP7 and Ulp2 (ubiquitin-like protease 2). SUMO chain-binding proteins including ZIP1, SLX5/8 (synthetic lethal of unknown function 5/8), RNF4 (RING finger protein 4) and CENP-E (centromere-associated protein E) have been identified that interact non-covalently with SUMO chains, thereby regulating target proteins that are conjugated to SUMO multimers. SUMO chains play roles in replication, in the turnover of SUMO targets by the proteasome and during mitosis and meiosis. Thus signalling via polymers is an exciting feature of the SUMO family.

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