The NEDD8-Cullin E3 ligase pathway plays an important role in protein homeostasis, in particular the degradation of cell cycle regulators and transcriptional control networks. To characterize NEDD8-cullin target proteins, we performed a quantitative proteomic analysis of cells treated with MLN4924, a small molecule inhibitor of the NEDD8 conjugation pathway. MRFAP1 and its interaction partner, MORF4L1, were among the most up-regulated proteins after NEDD8 inhibition in multiple human cell lines. We show that MRFAP1 has a fast turnover rate in the absence of MLN4924 and is degraded via the ubiquitin- proteasome system. The increased abundance of MRFAP1 after MLN4924 treatment results from a decreased rate of degradation. Characterization of the binding partners of both MRFAP1 and MORF4L1 revealed a complex protein-protein interaction network. MRFAP1 bound to a number of E3 ubiquitin ligases, including CUL4B, but not to components of the NuA4 complex, including MRGBP, which bound to MORF4L1. These data indicate that MRFAP1 may regulate the ability of MORF4L1 to interact with chromatin-modifying enzymes by binding to MORF4L1 in a mutually exclusive manner with MRGBP. Analysis of MRFAP1 expression in human tissues by immunostaining with a MRFAP1-specific antibody revealed that it was detectable in only a small number of tissues, in particular testis and brain. Strikingly, analysis of the seminiferous tubules of the testis showed the highest nuclear staining in the spermatogonia and much weaker staining in the spermatocytes and spermatids. MRGBP was inversely correlated with MRFAP1 expression in these cell types, consistent with an exchange of MORF4L1 interaction partners as cells progress through meiosis in the testis. These data highlight an important new arm of the NEDD8cullin pathway.
2012. Vol. 11, no 3