SUMOylation and cell signalling

Biotechnol J. 2009 Dec;4(12):1740-52. doi: 10.1002/biot.200900219.


SUMOylation is a highly transient post-translational protein modification. Attachment of SUMO to target proteins occurs via a number of specific activating and ligating enzymes that form the SUMO-substrate complex, and other SUMO-specific proteases that cleave the covalent bond, thus leaving both SUMO and target protein free for the next round of modification. SUMO modification has major effects on numerous aspects of substrate function, including subcellular localisation, regulation of their target genes, and interactions with other molecules. The modified SUMO-protein complex is a very transient state, and it thus facilitates rapid response and actions by the cell, when needed. Like phosphorylation, acetylation and ubiquitination, SUMOylation has been associated with a number of cellular processes. In addition to its nuclear role, important sides of mitochondrial activity, stress response signalling and the decision of cells to undergo senescence or apoptosis, have now been shown to involve the SUMO pathway. With ever increasing numbers of reports linking SUMO to human disease, like neurodegeneration and cancer metastasis, it is highly likely that novel and equally important functions of components of the SUMOylation process in cell signalling pathways will be elucidated in the near future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Acetylation
  • Cell Communication / physiology*
  • Cellular Senescence
  • Disease
  • Mitochondria
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins / physiology*
  • Ubiquitination


  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins