PEX5 and ubiquitin dynamics on mammalian peroxisome membranes

PLoS Comput Biol. 2014 Jan;10(1):e1003426. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1003426. Epub 2014 Jan 16.


Peroxisomes are membrane-bound organelles within eukaryotic cells that post-translationally import folded proteins into their matrix. Matrix protein import requires a shuttle receptor protein, usually PEX5, that cycles through docking with the peroxisomal membrane, ubiquitination, and export back into the cytosol followed by deubiquitination. Matrix proteins associate with PEX5 in the cytosol and are translocated into the peroxisome lumen during the PEX5 cycle. This cargo translocation step is not well understood, and its energetics remain controversial. We use stochastic computational models to explore different ways the AAA ATPase driven removal of PEX5 may couple with cargo translocation in peroxisomal importers of mammalian cells. The first model considered is uncoupled, in which translocation is spontaneous, and does not immediately depend on PEX5 removal. The second is directly coupled, in which cargo translocation only occurs when its PEX5 is removed from the peroxisomal membrane. The third, novel, model is cooperatively coupled and requires two PEX5 on a given importomer for cargo translocation--one PEX5 with associated cargo and one with ubiquitin. We measure both the PEX5 and the ubiquitin levels on the peroxisomes as we vary the matrix protein cargo addition rate into the cytosol. We find that both uncoupled and directly coupled translocation behave identically with respect to PEX5 and ubiquitin, and the peroxisomal ubiquitin signal increases as the matrix protein traffic increases. In contrast, cooperatively coupled translocation behaves dramatically differently, with a ubiquitin signal that decreases with increasing matrix protein traffic. Recent work has shown that ubiquitin on mammalian peroxisome membranes can lead to selective degradation by autophagy, or 'pexophagy.' Therefore, the high ubiquitin level for low matrix cargo traffic with cooperatively coupled protein translocation could be used as a disuse signal to mediate pexophagy. This mechanism may be one way that cells could regulate peroxisome numbers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation
  • Cytosol / metabolism
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Membranes / metabolism*
  • Mammals
  • Peroxisome-Targeting Signal 1 Receptor
  • Peroxisomes / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stochastic Processes
  • Ubiquitin / chemistry
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism


  • PEX5 protein, human
  • Peroxisome-Targeting Signal 1 Receptor
  • Receptors, Cytoplasmic and Nuclear
  • Ubiquitin