Bacteria-host relationship: ubiquitin ligases as weapons of invasion

Cell Res. 2016 Apr;26(4):499-510. doi: 10.1038/cr.2016.30. Epub 2016 Mar 11.


Eukaryotic cells utilize the ubiquitin (Ub) system for maintaining a balanced functioning of cellular pathways. Although the Ub system is exclusive to eukaryotes, prokaryotic bacteria have developed an armory of Ub ligase enzymes that are capable of employing the Ub systems of various hosts, ranging from plant to animal cells. These enzymes have been acquired through the evolution and can be classified into three main classes, RING (really interesting new gene), HECT (homologous to the E6-AP carboxyl terminus) and NEL (novel E3 ligases). In this review we describe the roles played by different classes of bacterial Ub ligases in infection and pathogenicity. We also provide an overview of the different mechanisms by which bacteria mimic specific components of the host Ub system and outline the gaps in our current understanding of their functions. Additionally, we discuss approaches and experimental tools for validating this class of enzymes as potential novel antibacterial therapy targets.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / enzymology*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity*
  • Bacterial Infections / drug therapy
  • Bacterial Infections / microbiology
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / metabolism*


  • Ubiquitin
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases