A Novel Family of Membrane-Bound E3 Ubiquitin Ligases

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A novel E3 ubiquitin ligase family that consists of viral E3 ubiquitin ligases (E3s) and their mammalian homologues was recently discovered. These novel E3s are membrane-bound molecules that share the secondary structure and catalytic domain for E3 activity. All family members have two transmembrane regions at the center and a RING-CH domain at the amino terminus. Forced expression of these novel E3s has been shown to reduce the surface expression of various membrane proteins through ubiquitination of target molecules. Initial examples of viral E3s were identified in Kaposi's sarcoma associated herpesvirus (KSHV) and murine γ-herpesvirus 68 (MHV-68) and have been designated as modulator of immune recognition (MIR) 1, 2 and mK3, respectively. MIR 1, 2 and mK3 are able to down-regulate MHC class I molecule expression, and mK3 is required to establish an effective latent viral infection in vivo. The first characterized mammalian homologue to MIR 1, 2 and mK3 is c-MIR/MARCH VIII. Forced expression of c-MIR/MARCH VIII down-regulates B7-2, a co-stimulatory molecule important for antigen presentation. Subsequently, several mammalian molecules related to c-MIR/MARCH VIII have been characterized and named as membrane associated RING-CH (MARCH) family. However, the precise physiological function of MARCH family members remains as yet unknown.

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