The COP9 signalosome (CSN) is thought to maintain the stability of cullin-RING ubiquitin ligases (CRL) by limiting the autocatalytic destruction of substrate adapters such as F box proteins (FBPs). CAND1, a protein associated with unneddylated CUL1, was proposed to assist in this role in an as yet unclear fashion. We found that only a subset of Schizosaccharomyces pombe FBPs, which feature a critical F box proline that promotes their interaction with CUL1, required CSN for stability. Unlike the CRL3 adaptor Btb3p, none of the CSN-sensitive FBPs were affected by deletion of ubp12. Contrary to current models, CAND1 does not control adaptor stability but maintains the cellular balance of CRL1 complexes by preventing rare FBPs from being outcompeted for binding to CUL1 by more ample adapters. These findings were integrated into a refined model of CRL control in which substrate availability toggles CRLs between independent CSN and CAND1 cycles.
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