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Assembly and Function of Heterotypic Ubiquitin Chains in Cell-Cycle and Protein Quality Control


Posttranslational modification with ubiquitin chains controls cell fate in all eukaryotes. Depending on the connectivity between subunits, different ubiquitin chain types trigger distinct outputs, as seen with K48- and K63-linked conjugates that drive protein degradation or complex assembly, respectively. Recent biochemical analyses also suggested roles for mixed or branched ubiquitin chains, yet without a method to monitor endogenous conjugates, the physiological significance of heterotypic polymers remained poorly understood. Here, we engineered a bispecific antibody to detect K11/K48-linked chains and identified mitotic regulators, misfolded nascent polypeptides, and pathological Huntingtin variants as their endogenous substrates. We show that K11/K48-linked chains are synthesized and processed by essential ubiquitin ligases and effectors that are mutated across neurodegenerative diseases; accordingly, these conjugates promote rapid proteasomal clearance of aggregation-prone proteins. By revealing key roles of K11/K48-linked chains in cell-cycle and quality control, we establish heterotypic ubiquitin conjugates as important carriers of biological information.

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