Tandem affinity purification and mass spectrometric analysis of ubiquitylated proteins in Arabidopsis

Plant J. 2009 Jul;59(2):344-58. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-313X.2009.03862.x. Epub 2009 Mar 9.


Protein ubiquitylation is a central regulatory mechanism that controls numerous processes in plants, including hormone signaling, developmental progression, responses to biotic and abiotic challenges, protein trafficking and chromatin structure. Despite data implicating thousands of plant proteins as targets, so far only a few have been conclusively shown to be ubiquitylated in planta. Here we describe a method to isolate ubiquitin-protein conjugates from Arabidopsis that exploits a stable transgenic line expressing a synthetic poly-UBQ gene encoding ubiquitin (Ub) monomers N-terminally tagged with hexahistidine. Following sequential enrichment by Ub-affinity and nickel chelate-affinity chromatography, the ubiquitylated proteins were trypsinized, separated by two-dimensional liquid chromatography, and analyzed by mass spectrometry. Our list of 54 non-redundant targets, expressed by as many as 90 possible isoforms, included those predicted by genetic studies to be ubiquitylated in plants (EIN3 and JAZ6) or shown to be ubiquitylated in other eukaryotes (ribosomal subunits, elongation factor 1alpha, histone H1, HSP70 and CDC48), as well as candidates whose control by the Ub/26S proteasome system is not yet appreciated. Ub attachment site(s) were resolved for a subset of these proteins, but surprisingly little sequence consensus was detected, implying that specific residues surrounding the modified lysine are not important determinants for ubiquitylation. We also identified six of the seven available lysine residues on Ub itself as Ub attachment sites, together with evidence for a branched mixed-linkage chain, suggesting that the topologies of Ub chains can be highly complex in plants. Taken together, our method provides a widely applicable strategy to define ubiquitylation in any tissue of intact plants exposed to a wide range of conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Arabidopsis Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Chromatography, Affinity / methods*
  • Mass Spectrometry / methods*
  • Plants, Genetically Modified / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin / isolation & purification*
  • Ubiquitination


  • Arabidopsis Proteins
  • Ubiquitin