The eukaryotic 20 S proteasome is a barrel-shaped protease complex, made up of four seven-membered rings. The outer and inner rings contain seven different alpha and beta-type subunits, respectively, each subunit located at a defined position. Recently, we have reported that the recombinant human alpha-type subunit C8 (HsC8) assembles into a heptameric ring-like structure by itself. In the present study we show that the two naturally neighboring alpha-type subunits of HsC8, HsPROS30 and HsPROS27, do not form ring-like complexes by themselves, but only dimers. This indicates that the propensity to form homo-oligomeric rings is not a general feature among human alpha-type subunits. However, coexpression of HsC8 and either of these neighbor alpha-type subunits results in the formation of hetero-oligomeric ring complexes, resembling the HsC8 ring-like structure. The ratio between the two types of subunits in the mixed complexes is surprisingly heterogeneous, varying from very high to very low HsC8 content. The three tested alpha-type subunits thus apparently lack binding sites that selectively interact with a specific neighboring subunit. This suggests that the correct positioning of the different alpha-type subunits in the eukaryotic 20 S proteasome is not dictated by the alpha-type subunits themselves, but rather by the interaction with specific beta-type subunits.
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