Activation of NF-kappaB is achieved by ubiquitination and proteasome-mediated degradation of IkappaBalpha. We have detected modified IkappaBalpha, conjugated to the small ubiquitin-like protein SUMO-1, which is resistant to signal-induced degradation. In the presence of an E1 SUMO-1-activating enzyme, Ubch9 conjugated SUMO-1 to IkappaBalpha primarily on K21, which is also utilized for ubiquitin modification. Thus, SUMO-1-modified IkappaBalpha cannot be ubiquitinated and is resistant to proteasome-mediated degradation. As a result, overexpression of SUMO-1 inhibits signal-induced activation of NF-kappaB-dependent transcription. Unlike ubiquitin modification, which requires phosphorylation of S32 and S36, SUMO-1 modification of IkappaBalpha is inhibited by phosphorylation. Thus, while ubiquitination targets proteins for rapid degradation, SUMO-1 modification acts antagonistically to generate proteins resistant to degradation.
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