Notch signaling in Drosophila requires a RING finger (RF) protein encoded by neuralized. Here we show that the Xenopus homolog of neuralized (Xneur) is expressed where Notch signaling controls cell fate choices in early embryos. Overexpressing XNeur or putative dominant-negative forms in embryos inhibits Notch signaling. As expected for a RF protein, we show that XNeur fulfills the biochemical requirements of ubiquitin ligases. We also show that wild-type XNeur decreases the cell surface level of the Notch ligand, XDelta1, while putative inhibitory forms of XNeur increase it. Finally, we provide evidence that XNeur acts as a ubiquitin ligase for XDelta1 in vitro. We propose that XNeur plays a conserved role in Notch activation by regulating the cell surface levels of the Delta ligands, perhaps directly, via ubiquitination.
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