Misfolded proteins are eliminated from the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) by retrotranslocation into the cytosol, a pathway hijacked by certain viruses to destroy MHC class I heavy chains. The translocation of polypeptides across the ER membrane requires their polyubiquitination and subsequent extraction from the membrane by the p97 ATPase [also called valosin-containing protein (VCP) or, in yeast, Cdc48]. In higher eukaryotes, p97 is bound to the ER membrane by a membrane protein complex containing Derlin-1 and VCP-interacting membrane protein (VIMP). How the ubiquitination machinery is recruited to the p97/Derlin/VIMP complex is unclear. Here, we report that p97 interacts directly with several ubiquitin ligases and facilitates their recruitment to Derlin-1. During retrotranslocation, a substrate first interacts with Derlin-1 before p97 and other factors join the complex. These data, together with the fact that Derlin-1 is a multispanning membrane protein forming homo-oligomers, support the idea that Derlin-1 is part of a retrotranslocation channel that is associated with both the polyubiquitination and p97-ATPase machineries.
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