Regulating the human HECT E3 ligases
Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences p. 1- 21
Ubiquitination, the covalent attachment of ubiquitin to proteins, by E3 ligases of the HECT (homologous to E6AP C terminus) family is critical in controlling diverse physiological pathways. Stringent control of HECT E3 ligase activity and substrate specificity is essential for cellular health, whereas deregulation of HECT E3s plays a prominent role in disease. The cell employs a wide variety of regulatory mechanisms to control HECT E3 activity and substrate specificity. Here, we summarize the current understanding of these regulatory mechanisms that control HECT E3 function. Substrate specificity is generally determined by interactions of adaptor proteins with domains in the N-terminal extensions of HECT E3 ligases. These N-terminal domains have also been found to interact with the HECT domain, resulting in the formation of inhibitory conformations. In addition, catalytic activity of the HECT domain is commonly regulated at the level of E2 recruitment and through HECT E3 oligomerization. The previously mentioned regulatory mechanisms can be controlled through protein–protein interactions, post-translational modifications, the binding of calcium ions, and more. Functional activity is determined not only by substrate recruitment and catalytic activity, but also by the type of ubiquitin polymers catalyzed to the substrate. While this is often determined by the specific HECT member, recent studies demonstrate that HECT E3s can be modulated to alter the type of ubiquitin polymers they catalyze. Insight into these diverse regulatory mechanisms that control HECT E3 activity may open up new avenues for therapeutic strategies aimed at inhibition or enhancement of HECT E3 function in disease-related pathways.