Identifying the ERAD ubiquitin E3 ligases for viral and cellular targeting of MHC class I

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The human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) US2 and US11 gene products hijack mammalian ER-associated degradation (ERAD) to induce rapid degradation of major histocompatibility class I (MHC-I) molecules. The rate-limiting step in this pathway is thought to be the polyubiquitination of MHC-I by distinct host ERAD E3 ubiquitin ligases. TRC8 was identified as the ligase responsible for US2-mediated MHC-I degradation and shown to be required for the cleavage-dependent degradation of some tail-anchored proteins. In addition to MHC-I, plasma membrane profiling identified further immune receptors, which are also substrates for the US2/TRC8 complex. These include at least six α integrins, the coagulation factor thrombomodulin and the NK cell ligand CD112. US2's use of specific HCMV-encoded adaptors makes it an adaptable viral degradation hub. US11-mediated degradation is MHC-I-specific and genetic screens have identified TMEM129, an uncharacterised RING-C2 E3 ligase, as responsible for US11-mediated degradation. In a unique auto-regulatory loop, US11 readily responds to changes in cellular expression of MHC-I. Free US11 either rebinds more MHC-I or is itself degraded by the HRD1/SEL1L E3 ligase complex. While virally encoded US2 and US11 appropriate mammalian ERAD, the MHC-I complex also undergoes stringent cellular quality control and misfolded MHC-I is degraded by the HRD1/SEL1L complex. We discuss the identification and central role of E3 ubiquitin ligases in ER quality control and viral degradation of the MHC-I chain.

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