NEMO specifically recognizes K63-linked poly-ubiquitin chains through a new bipartite ubiquitin-binding domain

EMBO J. 2009 Oct 7;28(19):2885-95. doi: 10.1038/emboj.2009.241. Epub 2009 Sep 17.


An important property of NEMO, the core element of the IKK complex involved in NF-kappaB activation, resides in its ability to specifically recognize poly-ubiquitin chains. A small domain called NOA/UBAN has been suggested to be responsible for this property. We recently demonstrated that the C-terminal Zinc Finger (ZF) of NEMO is also able to bind ubiquitin. We show here by ZF swapping and mutagenesis that this represents its only function. While neither NOA nor ZF shows any preference for K63-linked chains, we demonstrate that together they form a bipartite high-affinity K63-specific ubiquitin-binding domain. A similar domain can be found in two other proteins, Optineurin and ABIN2, and can be freely exchanged with that of NEMO without interfering with its activity. This suggests that the main function of the C-terminal half of NEMO is to specifically bind K63-linked poly-ubiquitin chains. We also demonstrate that the recently described binding of NEMO to linear poly-ubiquitin chains is dependent on the NOA alone and does not require the presence of the ZF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Down-Regulation
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase / chemistry
  • I-kappa B Kinase / genetics
  • I-kappa B Kinase / metabolism*
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / chemistry
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Jurkat Cells
  • Mice
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Polyubiquitin / chemistry
  • Polyubiquitin / metabolism*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Zinc Fingers


  • IKBKG protein, human
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • NEMO protein, mouse
  • Polyubiquitin
  • I-kappa B Kinase