Sterol-regulated ubiquitination is an obligatory step in ER-associated degradation (ERAD) of HMG CoA reductase, a rate-limiting enzyme in cholesterol synthesis. Accelerated degradation of reductase, one of several strategies animal cells use to limit production of cholesterol, requires sterol-induced binding of the enzyme to ER membrane proteins called Insigs. Once formed, the reductase-Insig complex is recognized by a putative membrane-associated ubiquitin ligase (E3) that mediates the reductase ubiquitination reaction. Here, we show that gp78, a membrane bound E3, binds to Insig-1 and is required for sterol-regulated ubiquitination of reductase. In addition, gp78 couples regulated ubiquitination to degradation of reductase by binding to VCP, an ATPase that plays a key role in recognition and degradation of ERAD substrates. The current results identify gp78 as the E3 that initiates sterol-accelerated degradation of reductase, and Insig-1 as a bridge between gp78/VCP and the reductase substrate.
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