Role of N-end rule ubiquitin ligases UBR1 and UBR2 in regulating the leucine-mTOR signaling pathway

Genes Cells. 2010 Apr 1;15(4):339-49. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2443.2010.01385.x. Epub 2010 Mar 16.


Of 20 natural amino acids, leucine is particularly important for promoting cellular protein synthesis. The effect of leucine involves mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR), a key protein kinase controlling cell growth. Leucine enhances mTOR-mediated phosphorylation of S6K1 and 4E-BP, thereby promoting protein synthesis. However, how the presence of leucine is sensed and transmitted to mTOR is poorly understood. Here, we show evidence that UBR1 and UBR2 might be cellular targets of leucine. UBR1 and UBR2 are E3 ubiquitin ligases that recognize the identity of N-terminal residues and contribute to selective destabilization of target proteins according to the N-end rule. Using leucine-immobilized affinity beads, we identified UBR1 and UBR2 as leucine-binding proteins from leucine-responsive rat hepatoma H4IIE cells. Over-expression of UBR1 or UBR2 resulted in a reduction in mTOR-dependent S6K1 phosphorylation, whereas knockdown of UBR1 or UBR2 increased S6K1 phosphorylation in amino acid-starved human 293T cells. We also found that leucine binds to the substrate-recognition domain of UBR2 and inhibits degradation of N-end rule substrates in vitro. These findings suggest that UBR1 and UBR2 are negative regulators of the leucine-mTOR signaling pathway. Leucine might activate this pathway in part through inhibition of their ubiquitin ligase activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Humans
  • Leucine / genetics
  • Leucine / metabolism
  • Ligases / genetics
  • Ligases / metabolism*
  • Mammals / genetics
  • Mammals / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Biosynthesis
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Sirolimus
  • Ubiquitin / genetics
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases* / physiology


  • Proteins
  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases
  • Ligases
  • Leucine
  • Sirolimus