Crystal structures of an E1–E2–ubiquitin thioester mimetic reveal molecular mechanisms of transthioesterification

Lingmin Yuan, Zongyang Lv, Melanie J. Adams, Shaun K. Olsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


E1 enzymes function as gatekeepers of ubiquitin (Ub) signaling by catalyzing activation and transfer of Ub to tens of cognate E2 conjugating enzymes in a process called E1–E2 transthioesterification. The molecular mechanisms of transthioesterification and the overall architecture of the E1–E2–Ub complex during catalysis are unknown. Here, we determine the structure of a covalently trapped E1–E2–ubiquitin thioester mimetic. Two distinct architectures of the complex are observed, one in which the Ub thioester (Ub(t)) contacts E1 in an open conformation and another in which Ub(t) instead contacts E2 in a drastically different, closed conformation. Altogether our structural and biochemical data suggest that these two conformational states represent snapshots of the E1–E2–Ub complex pre- and post-thioester transfer, and are consistent with a model in which catalysis is enhanced by a Ub(t)-mediated affinity switch that drives the reaction forward by promoting productive complex formation or product release depending on the conformational state.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2370
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)


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