Interferon-stimulated gene 15 and the protein ISGylation system

J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):119-30. doi: 10.1089/jir.2010.0110. Epub 2010 Dec 29.


Interferon-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) is one of the most upregulated genes upon Type I interferon treatment or pathogen infection. Its 17 kDa protein product, ISG15, was the first ubiquitin-like modifier identified, and is similar to a ubiquitin linear dimer. As ISG15 modifies proteins in a similar manner to ubiquitylation, protein conjugation by ISG15 is termed ISGylation. Some of the primary enzymes that promote ISGylation are also involved in ubiquitin conjugation. The process to remove ISG15 from its conjugated proteins, termed de-ISGylation, is performed by a cellular ISG15-specific protease, ubiquitin-specific proteases with molecular mass 43 kDa (UBP43)/ubiquitin-specific proteases 18. Relative to ubiquitin, the biological function of ISG15 is still poorly understood, but ISG15 appears to play important roles in various biological and cellular functions. Therefore, there is growing interest in ISG15, as the study of free ISG15 and functional consequences of ISGylation/de-ISGylation may identify useful therapeutic targets. This review highlights recent discoveries and remaining questions important to understanding the biological functions of ISG15.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cytokines / chemistry
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Interferons / metabolism*
  • Interferons / pharmacology
  • Protein Interaction Domains and Motifs
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational / drug effects
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase
  • Ubiquitins / chemistry
  • Ubiquitins / genetics
  • Ubiquitins / metabolism*


  • Cytokines
  • Ubiquitins
  • ISG15 protein, human
  • Interferons
  • Endopeptidases
  • USP18 protein, human
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase