The role of allostery in the ubiquitin-proteasome system

Jin Liu, Ruth Nussinov

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is involved in many cellular processes including protein degradation. Degradation of a protein via this system involves two successive steps: ubiquitination and degradation. Ubiquitination tags the target protein with ubiquitin-like proteins (UBLs), such as ubiquitin, small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) and NEDD8, via a cascade involving three enzymes: activating enzyme E1, conjugating enzyme E2 and E3 ubiquitin ligases. The proteasomes recognize the UBL-tagged substrate proteins and degrade them. Accumulating evidence indicates that allostery is a central player in the regulation of ubiquitination, as well as deubiquitination and degradation. Here, we provide an overview of the key mechanistic roles played by allostery in all steps of these processes, and highlight allosteric drugs targeting them. Throughout the review, we emphasize the crucial mechanistic role played by linkers in allosterically controlling the UPS action by biasing the sampling of the conformational space, which facilitate the catalytic reactions of the ubiquitination and degradation. Finally, we propose that allostery may similarly play key roles in the regulation of molecular machines in the cell, and as such allosteric drugs can be expected to be increasingly exploited in therapeutic regimes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)89-97
Number of pages9
JournalCritical Reviews in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2013


  • Allosteric
  • Allostery
  • Degradation
  • Molecular machine
  • Ubiquitin


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