Eukaryotic cells monitor and maintain protein quality through a set of protein quality control (PQC) systems whose role is to minimize the harmful effects of the accumulation of aberrant proteins. Although these PQC systems have been extensively studied in the cytoplasm, nuclear PQC systems are not well understood. The present work shows the existence of a nuclear PQC system mediated by the ubiquitin-proteasome system in the fission yeast Schizosaccharomyces pombe. Asf1-30, a mutant form of the histone chaperone Asf1, was used as a model substrate for the study of the nuclear PQC. A temperature-sensitive Asf1-30 protein localized to the nucleus was selectively degraded by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The Asf1-30 mutant protein was highly ubiquitinated at higher temperatures, and it remained stable in an mts2-1 mutant, which lacks proteasome activity. The E2 enzyme Ubc4 was identified among 11 candidate proteins as the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme in this system, and San1 was selected among 100 candidates as the ubiquitin ligase (E3) targeting Asf1-30 for degradation. San1, but not other nuclear E3s, showed specificity for the mutant nuclear Asf1-30, but did not show activity against wild-type Asf1. These data clearly showed that the aberrant nuclear protein was degraded by a defined set of E1-E2-E3 enzymes through the ubiquitin-proteasome system. The data also show, for the first time, the presence of a nuclear PQC system in fission yeast.
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