Structural basis for the SUMO protease activity of the atypical ubiquitin-specific protease USPL1

Ying Li, David Reverter*, Nathalia Varejao Nogueira

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Post-translational protein modifications by ubiquitin and ubiquitin-like modifiers regulate many major pathways in the cell. These modifications can be reversed by de-ubiquitinating enzymes such as ubiquitin-specific proteases (USPs). Proteolytic activity towards ubiquitin-modified substrates is common to all USP family members except for USPL1, which shows a unique preference for the ubiquitin-like modifier SUMO. Here, we present the crystal structure of USPL1 bound to SUMO2, defining the key structural elements for the unusual deSUMOylase activity of USPL1. We identify specific contacts between SUMO2 and the USPL1 subdomains, including a unique hydrogen bond network of the SUMO2 C-terminal tail. In addition, we find that USPL1 lacks major structural elements present in all canonical USPs members such as the so-called blocking loops, which facilitates SUMO binding. Our data give insight into how a structural protein scaffold designed to bind ubiquitin has evolved to bind SUMO, providing an example of divergent evolution in the USP family.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1819
Number of pages12
JournalNature communications
Publication statusPublished - 5 Apr 2022


  • Protein Binding
  • Proteolysis
  • Small Ubiquitin-Related Modifier Proteins/metabolism
  • Ubiquitin/metabolism
  • Ubiquitin-Specific Proteases/metabolism


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