In the cytoplasm, the correct delivery of membrane proteins is an essential and highly regulated process. The posttranslational targeting of the important tail-anchor membrane (TA) proteins has recently been under intense investigation. A specialized pathway, called the guided entry of TA proteins (GET) pathway in yeast and the transmembrane domain recognition complex (TRC) pathway in vertebrates, recognizes endoplasmic-reticulum-targeted TA proteins and delivers them through a complex series of handoffs. An early step is the formation of a complex between Sgt2/SGTA, a cochaperone with a presumed ubiquitin-like-binding domain (UBD), and Get5/UBL4A, a ubiquitin-like domain (UBL)-containing protein. We structurally characterize this UBD/UBL interaction for both yeast and human proteins. This characterization is supported by biophysical studies that demonstrate that complex formation is mediated by electrostatics, generating an interface that has high-affinity with rapid kinetics. In total, this work provides a refined model of the interplay of Sgt2 homologs in TA targeting.
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