Insig-1 and Insig-2 are closely related proteins of the endoplasmic reticulum that play crucial roles in cholesterol homeostasis by inhibiting excessive cholesterol synthesis and uptake. In sterol-depleted cells Insig-1 is degraded at least 15 times more rapidly than Insig-2, owing to ubiquitination of Lys-156 and Lys-158 in Insig-1. In this study, we use domain-swapping methods to localize amino acid residues responsible for this differential degradation. In the case of Insig-2, Glu-214 stabilizes the protein by preventing ubiquitination. When Glu-214 is changed to alanine, Insig-2 becomes ubiquitinated, but it is still not degraded as rapidly as ubiquitinated Insig-1. The difference in the degradation rates is traced to two amino acids: Ser-149 in Insig-1 and Ser-106 in Insig-2. Ser-149, which lies NH(2)-terminal to the ubiquitination sites, accelerates the degradation of ubiquitinated Insig-1. Ser-106, which is COOH-terminal to the ubiquitination sites, retards the degradation of ubiquitinated Insig-2. The current studies indicate that the degradation of ubiquitinated Insigs is controlled by serine residues flanking the sites of ubiquitination.
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