Interferon-inducible ubiquitin E2, Ubc8, is a conjugating enzyme for protein ISGylation

Kim Keun Il, Nadia V. Giannakopoulos, Herbert W. Virgin, Dong Er Zhang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

185 Scopus citations


Protein ISGylation is unique among ubiquitin-like conjugation systems in that the expression and conjugation processes are induced by specific stimuli, mainly via the alpha/beta interferon signaling pathway. It has been suggested that protein ISGylation plays a special role in the immune response, because of its interferon-signal dependency and its appearance only in higher eukaryotic organisms. Here, we report the identification of an ISG15-conjugating enzyme, Ubc8. Like other components of the protein ISGylation system (ISG15, UBE1L, and UBP43), Ubc8 is an interferon-inducible protein. Ubc8 clearly mediates protein ISGylation in transfection assays. The reduction of Ubc8 expression by small interfering RNA causes a decrease in protein ISGylation in HeLa cells upon interferon treatment. Neither UbcH7/UbcM4, the closest homologue of Ubc8 among known ubiquitin E2s, nor the small ubiquitin-like modifier E2 Ubc9 supports protein ISGylation. These findings strongly suggest that Ubc8 is a major ISG15-conjugating enzyme responsible for protein ISGylation upon interferon stimulation. Furthermore, we established an assay system to detect ISGylated target proteins by cotransfection of ISG15, UBE1L, and Ubc8 together with a target protein to be analyzed. This method provides an easy and effective way to identify new targets for the ISGylation system and will facilitate related studies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9592-9600
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and cellular biology
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 2004


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