Ubiquitin and membrane protein turnover: from cradle to grave

Annu Rev Biochem. 2012;81:231-59. doi: 10.1146/annurev-biochem-060210-093619. Epub 2012 Mar 8.


From the moment of cotranslational insertion into the lipid bilayer of the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), newly synthesized integral membrane proteins are subject to a complex series of sorting, trafficking, quality control, and quality maintenance systems. Many of these processes are intimately controlled by ubiquitination, a posttranslational modification that directs trafficking decisions related to both the biosynthetic delivery of proteins to the plasma membrane (PM) via the secretory pathway and the removal of proteins from the PM via the endocytic pathway. Ubiquitin modification of integral membrane proteins (or "cargoes") generally acts as a sorting signal, which is recognized, captured, and delivered to a specific cellular destination via specialized trafficking events. By affecting the quality, quantity, and localization of integral membrane proteins in the cell, defects in these processes contribute to human diseases, including cystic fibrosis, circulatory diseases, and various neuropathies. This review summarizes our current understanding of how ubiquitin modification influences cargo trafficking, with a special emphasis on mechanisms of quality control and quality maintenance in the secretory and endocytic pathways.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum-Associated Degradation
  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Proteolysis
  • Ubiquitination*


  • Endosomal Sorting Complexes Required for Transport
  • Membrane Proteins