Ubiquitin ligases and the immune response

Annu Rev Immunol. 2004;22:81-127. doi: 10.1146/annurev.immunol.22.012703.104813.


Ubiquitin (Ub)-protein conjugation represents a novel means of posttranscriptional modification in a proteolysis-dependent or -independent manner. E3 Ub ligases play a key role in governing the cascade of Ub transfer reactions by recognizing and catalyzing Ub conjugation to specific protein substrates. The E3s, which can be generally classified into HECT-type and RING-type families, are involved in the regulation of many aspects of the immune system, including the development, activation, and differentiation of lymphocytes, T cell-tolerance induction, antigen presentation, immune evasion, and virus budding. E3-promoted ubiquitination affects a wide array of biological processes, such as receptor downmodulation, signal transduction, protein processing or translocation, protein-protein interaction, and gene transcription, in addition to proteasome-mediated degradation. Deficiency or mutation of some of the E3s like Cbl, Cbl-b, or Itch, causes abnormal immune responses such as autoimmunity, malignancy, and inflammation. This review discusses our current understanding of E3 Ub ligases in both innate and adaptive immunity. Such knowledge may facilitate the development of novel therapeutic approaches for immunological diseases.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigen Presentation / immunology
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Lymphocyte Activation / immunology
  • Signal Transduction / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / cytology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligase Complexes / immunology
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / immunology*


  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligase Complexes
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases