The repertoires of ubiquitinating and deubiquitinating enzymes in eukaryotic genomes

Mol Biol Evol. 2013 May;30(5):1172-87. doi: 10.1093/molbev/mst022. Epub 2013 Feb 7.


Reversible protein ubiquitination regulates virtually all known cellular activities. Here, we present a quantitatively evaluated and broadly applicable method to predict eukaryotic ubiquitinating enzymes (UBE) and deubiquitinating enzymes (DUB) and its application to 50 distinct genomes belonging to four of the five major phylogenetic supergroups of eukaryotes: unikonts (including metazoans, fungi, choanozoa, and amoebozoa), excavates, chromalveolates, and plants. Our method relies on a collection of profile hidden Markov models, and we demonstrate its superior performance (coverage and classification accuracy >99%) by identifying approximately 25% and approximately 35% additional UBE and DUB genes in yeast and human, which had not been reported before. In yeast, we predict 85 UBE and 24 DUB genes, for 814 UBE and 107 DUB genes in the human genome. Most UBE and DUB families are present in all eukaryotic lineages, with plants and animals harboring massively enlarged repertoires of ubiquitin ligases. Unicellular organisms, on the other hand, typically harbor less than 300 UBEs and less than 40 DUBs per genome. Ninety-one UBE/DUB genes are orthologous across all four eukaryotic supergroups, and these likely represent a primordial core of enzymes of the ubiquitination system probably dating back to the first eukaryotes approximately 2 billion years ago. Our genome-wide predictions are available through the Database of Ubiquitinating and Deubiquitinating Enzymes (, where users can also perform advanced sequence and phylogenetic analyses and submit their own predictions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Genome, Human / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Markov Chains
  • Ubiquitination / genetics
  • Ubiquitination / physiology