Inhibitors of Apoptosis Protein (IAPs) are guardian ubiquitin ligases that keep classic proapoptotic proteins in check. Systematic identification of additional IAP substrates is challenged by the heterogeneity and sheer number of ubiquitinated proteins (>5,000). Here we report a powerful catalytic tagging tool, the NEDDylator, which fuses a NEDD8 E2-conjugating enzyme, Ubc12, to the ubiquitin ligase, XIAP or cIAP1. This permits transfer of the rare ubiquitin homolog NEDD8 to the ubiquitin E3 substrates, allowing them to be efficiently purified for LC-MS/MS identification. We have identified >50 potential IAP substrates of both cytosolic and mitochondrial origin that bear hallmark N-terminal IAP binding motifs. These substrates include the recently discovered protein phosphatase PGAM5, which we show is proteolytically processed, accumulates in cytosol during apoptosis, and sensitizes cells to death. These studies reveal mechanisms and antagonistic partners for specific IAPs, and provide a powerful technology for labeling binding partners in transient protein-protein complexes.
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