Proteins can be modified with eight homogenous ubiquitin chains linked by an isopeptide bond between the C-terminus of one ubiquitin and an amine from one of the seven lysines or the N-terminal methionine of the next ubiquitin. These topologically distinct ubiquitin chains signal for many essential cellular functions, such as protein degradation, cell cycle progression, DNA repair, and signal transduction. The lysine 48 (K48)-linked ubiquitin chain is one of the most abundant chains and a major proteasome-targeting signal in cells. Despite recent advancements in imaging linkage-specific polyubiquitin chains, no tool is available for imaging K48 chains in live cells. Here we report on a ubiquitination-induced fluorescence complementation (UiFC) assay for detecting K48 ubiquitin chains in vitro and in live cells. For this assay, two nonfluorescent fragments of a fluorescent protein were fused to the ubiquitin-interacting motifs (UIMs) of epsin1 protein. Upon simultaneous binding to a ubiquitin chain, the nonfluorescent fragments of the two fusion proteins are brought in close proximity to reconstitute fluorescence. When used in vitro, UiFC preferentially detected K48 ubiquitin chains with excellent signal-to-noise ratio. Time-lapse imaging revealed that UiFC is capable of monitoring increases in polyubiquitination induced by treatment with proteasome inhibitor, by agents that induce stress, and during mitophagy in live cells. © 2013 Chen et al.
Chen, Z., Zhong, Y., Wang, Y., Xu, S., Liu, Z., Baskakov, I. V., … Fang, S. (2013). Ubiquitination-Induced Fluorescence Complementation (UiFC) for Detection of K48 Ubiquitin Chains In Vitro and in Live Cells. PLoS ONE, 8(9). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0073482