Although ubiquitin-enriched protein inclusions represent an almost invariant feature of neurodegenerative diseases, the mechanism underlying their biogenesis remains unclear. In particular, whether the topology of ubiquitin linkages influences the dynamics of inclusions is not well explored. Here, we report that lysine 48 (K48)- and lysine 63 (K63)-linked polyubiquitination, as well as monoubiquitin modification contribute to the biogenesis of inclusions. K63-linked polyubiquitin is the most consistent enhancer of inclusions formation. Under basal conditions, ectopic expression of K63 mutant ubiquitin in cultured cells promotes the accumulation of proteins and the formation of intracellular inclusions in the apparent absence of proteasome impairment. When co-expressed with disease-associated tau and SOD1 mutants, K63 ubiquitin mutant facilitates the formation of tau- and SOD-1 - positive inclusions. Moreover, K63-linked ubiquitination was found to selectively facilitate the clearance of inclusions via autophagy. These data indicate that K63-linked ubiquitin chains may represent a common denominator underlying inclusions biogenesis, as well as a general cellular strategy for defining cargo destined for the autophagic system. Collectively, our results provide a novel mechanistic route that underlies the life cycle of an inclusion body. Harnessing this pathway may offer innovative approaches in the treatment of neurodegenerative disorders.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This work was supported by grants from SingHealth Group, Singapore National Medical Research Council NMRC/0776/ 2003 and Biomedical Research Council 0613319483 (L.K.L.), Singapore Millennium Foundation (J.T.), NIGMS GM67945 (S.G.) and NINDS Grants NS38377 and NS48206 (T.M.D.). T.M.D. is the Leonard and Madlyn Abramson Professor in Neurodegenerative Diseases.