UBB pseudogene 4 encodes functional ubiquitin variants

Nat Commun. 2020 Mar 11;11(1):1306. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-15090-6.


Pseudogenes are mutated copies of protein-coding genes that cannot be translated into proteins, but a small subset of pseudogenes has been detected at the protein level. Although ubiquitin pseudogenes represent one of the most abundant pseudogene families in many organisms, little is known about their expression and signaling potential. By re-analyzing public RNA-sequencing and proteomics datasets, we here provide evidence for the expression of several ubiquitin pseudogenes including UBB pseudogene 4 (UBBP4), which encodes UbKEKS (Q2K, K33E, Q49K, N60S). The functional consequences of UbKEKS conjugation appear to differ from canonical ubiquitylation. Quantitative proteomics shows that UbKEKS modifies specific proteins including lamins. Knockout of UBBP4 results in slower cell division, and accumulation of lamin A within the nucleolus. Our work suggests that a subset of proteins reported as ubiquitin targets may instead be modified by ubiquitin variants that are the products of wrongly annotated pseudogenes and induce different functional effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • CRISPR-Cas Systems / genetics
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • HEK293 Cells
  • HeLa Cells
  • Humans
  • Lamin Type A / metabolism*
  • Proteomics
  • Pseudogenes / genetics*
  • RNA-Seq
  • Ubiquitin / genetics*
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism
  • Ubiquitination


  • LMNA protein, human
  • Lamin Type A
  • Ubiquitin

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