Regulation of RNF144A E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Activity by Self-association through Its Transmembrane Domain

J Biol Chem. 2015 Sep 18;290(38):23026-38. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M115.645499. Epub 2015 Jul 27.


RNF144A, an E3 ubiquitin ligase for DNA-dependent protein kinase catalytic subunit (DNA-PKcs), can promote DNA damage-induced cell apoptosis. Here we characterize an important regulation of RNF144A through its transmembrane (TM) domain. The TM domain of RNF144A is highly conserved among species. Deletion of the TM domain abolishes its membrane localization and also significantly reduces its ubiquitin ligase activity. Further evidence shows that the TM domain is required for RNF144A self-association and that the self-association may be partially mediated through a classic GXXXG interaction motif. A mutant RNF144A-G252L/G256L (in the G(252)XXXG(256) motif) preserves membrane localization but is defective in self-association and ubiquitin ligase activity. On the other hand, a membrane localization loss mutant of RNF144A still retains self-association and E3 ligase activity, which can be blocked by additional G252L/G256L mutations. Therefore, our data demonstrate that the TM domain of RNF144A has at least two independent roles, membrane localization and E3 ligase activation, to regulate its physiological function. This regulatory mechanism may be applicable to other RBR (RING1-IBR-RING2) E3 ubiquitin ligases because, first, RNF144B also self-associates. Second, all five TM-containing RBR E3 ligases, including RNF144A and RNF144B, RNF19A/Dorfin, RNF19B, and RNF217, have the RBR-TM(GXXXG) superstructure. Mutations of the GXXXG motifs in RNF144A and RNF217 have also be found in human cancers, including a G252D mutation of RNF144A. Interestingly, RNF144A-G252D still preserves self-association and ubiquitin ligase activity but loses membrane localization and is turned over rapidly. In conclusion, both proper membrane localization and self-association are important for RNF144A function.

Keywords: E3 ubiquitin ligase; GXXXG motif; RBR; RNF144 subfamily; cell biology; membrane protein; self-association; transmembrane domain; ubiquitylation (ubiquitination).

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Motifs
  • Amino Acid Substitution
  • Carrier Proteins / genetics
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Membrane / enzymology*
  • Cell Membrane / genetics
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mutation, Missense
  • Protein Structure, Quaternary
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*


  • Carrier Proteins
  • RNF144A protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases