The terminal step in the ubiquitin modification system relies on an E3 ubiquitin ligase to facilitate transfer of ubiquitin to a protein substrate. The substrate recognition and ubiquitin transfer activities of the E3 ligase may be mediated by a single polypeptide or may rely on separate subunits. The latter organization is particularly prevalent among members of largest class of E3 ligases, the RING family, although examples of this type of arrangement have also been reported among members of the smaller HECT family of E3 ligases. This review describes recent discoveries that reveal the surprising and distinctive ability of VprBP (DCAF1) to serve as a substrate recognition subunit for a member of both major classes of E3 ligase, the RING-type CRL4 ligase and the HECT-type EDD/UBR5 ligase. The cellular processes normally regulated by VprBP-associated E3 ligases, and their targeting and subversion by viral accessory proteins are also discussed. Taken together, these studies provide important insights and raise interesting new questions regarding the mechanisms that regulate or subvert VprBP function in the context of both the CRL4 and EDD/UBR5 E3 ligases.
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