A modular toolbox to generate complex polymeric ubiquitin architectures using orthogonal sortase enzymes


Maximilian Fottner, Maria Weyh, Stefan Gaussmann, Dominic Schwarz, Michael Sattler, Kathrin Lang

Nat Commun., 2021, 12, 6515


The post-translational modification of proteins with ubiquitin (Ub) and Ub-like modifiers (Ubls) represents one of the most important regulators in eukaryotic biology. Polymeric Ub/Ubl chains of distinct topologies control the activity, stability, interaction and localization of almost all cellular proteins and elicit a variety of biological outputs. Our ability to characterize the roles of distinct Ub/Ubl topologies and to identify enzymes and receptors that create, recognize and remove these modifications is however hampered by the difficulty to prepare them. Here we introduce a modular toolbox (Ubl-tools) that allows the stepwise assembly of Ub/Ubl chains in a flexible and user-defined manner facilitated by orthogonal sortase enzymes. We demonstrate the universality and applicability of Ubl-tools by generating distinctly linked Ub/Ubl hybrid chains, and investigate their role in DNA damage repair. Importantly, Ubl-tools guarantees straightforward access to target proteins, site-specifically modified with distinct homo- and heterotypic (including branched) Ub chains, providing a powerful approach for studying the functional impact of these complex modifications on cellular processes.