The endoplasmic reticulum contains a protein quality control system that discovers malfolded or unassembled secretory proteins and subjects them to degradation in the cytosol. This requires retrograde transport of the respective proteins from the endoplasmic reticulum back to the cytosol via the Sec61 translocon. In addition, a fully competent ubiquitination machinery and the 26 S proteasome are necessary for retrotranslocation and degradation. Ubiquitination of mutated and malfolded proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum is dependent mainly on the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme Ubc7p. In addition, several new membrane components of the endoplasmic reticulum are required for degradation. Here we present the topology of the previously discovered RING-H2 finger protein Der3/Hrd1p, one of the new components of the endoplasmic reticulum membrane. The protein spans the membrane six times. The amino terminus and the carboxyl terminus containing the RING finger domain face the cytoplasm. Altogether, RING finger-dependent ubiquitination of malfolded carboxypeptidase yscY in vivo, as well as of Der3/Hrd1p itself in vitro and RING finger-dependent binding of Ubc7p, uncovers Der3/Hrd1p as the ubiquitin-protein ligase (E3) of the endoplasmic reticulum-associated protein degradation process.
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