The hematopoietic-specific transcription factor p45/NF-E2 is an important transcriptional activator in the erythroid and megakaryocytic lineages. We describe the first in vivo evidence for the interaction between p45/NF-E2 and the E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch, and the subsequent ubiquitination of p45/NF-E2 by Itch. Interestingly, Itch suppressed the transactivation activity of p45/NF-E2 by adding a Lys63-linked polyubiquitin chain. Confocal microscopy revealed that ubiquitinated p45/NF-E2 became localized in the cytoplasm when Itch was over-expressed. Thus, Itch-mediated ubiquitination of p45/NF-E2 does not target the protein for proteasomal degradation, but instead retains p45/NF-E2 in the cytoplasm, where it cannot function as a transactivator. Finally, we suggest that this Itch-dependent p45/NF-E2 ubiquitination mechanism may regulate NF-E2 function during the development of hematopoietic cell lineages.
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