Ubiquitin-like protein activation by E1 enzymes: the apex for downstream signalling pathways

Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2009 May;10(5):319-31. doi: 10.1038/nrm2673. Epub 2009 Apr 8.


Attachment of ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins (known as UBLs) to their targets through multienzyme cascades is a central mechanism to modulate protein functions. This process is initiated by a family of mechanistically and structurally related E1 (or activating) enzymes. These activate UBLs through carboxy-terminal adenylation and thiol transfer, and coordinate the use of UBLs in specific downstream pathways by charging cognate E2 (or conjugating) enzymes, which then interact with the downstream ubiquitylation machinery to coordinate the modification of the target. A broad understanding of how E1 enzymes activate UBLs and how they selectively coordinate UBLs with downstream function has come from enzymatic, structural and genetic studies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Activating Enzymes / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitination
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism*


  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitins
  • Ubiquitin-Activating Enzymes