Ribosomes that stall while translating cytosolic proteins are incapacitated by incomplete nascent chains, termed "arrest peptides" (APs) that are destroyed by the ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) via a process known as the ribosome-associated quality control (RQC) pathway. By contrast, APs on ribosomes that stall while translocating secretory proteins into the endoplasmic reticulum (ER-APs) are shielded from cytosol by the ER membrane and the tightly sealed ribosome-translocon junction (RTJ). How this junction is breached to enable access of cytosolic UPS machinery and 26S proteasomes to translocon- and ribosome-obstructing ER-APs is not known. Here, we show that UPS and RQC-dependent degradation of ER-APs strictly requires conjugation of the ubiquitin-like (Ubl) protein UFM1 to 60S ribosomal subunits at the RTJ. Therefore, UFMylation of translocon-bound 60S subunits modulates the RTJ to promote access of proteasomes and RQC machinery to ER-APs.
Keywords: UFM1; UFMylation; endoplasmic reticulum; ribosome-associated quality control; ubiquitin.