Ubiquitin Signaling: Chemistry Comes to the Rescue

Sachitanand M. Mali, Sumeet K. Singh, Emad Eid, Ashraf Brik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Posttranslational modification of proteins by ubiquitin (Ub), i.e., ubiquitination, mediates a variety of cellular processes, including protein homeostasis, cell cycle, DNA repair, and viral infections. Understanding the molecular mechanism of ubiquitination in these events is the basis for unraveling its precise role in health and disease. However, the inherent complexity of Ub signaling due to the high atomic complexity of Ub conjugates, where Ub is attached to other Ub molecules and to protein substrates in various forms, imposes a major challenge for these studies. In this regard, the enzymatic approaches employed for the preparation of important Ub conjugates have severe limitations to deliver them in high homogeneity and in adequate amounts for the desired study. Recent developments in the area of chemical synthesis and semisynthesis of proteins offer great solutions to the enzymatic limitations and enabling the preparation of various Ub conjugates with precise control over the atomic structure. These conjugates significantly contribute to deciphering Ub signaling at the molecular level, and with the synthetic tools in hand, chemical biologists have become key players in efforts toward understanding the complexity of the Ub code. In this Perspective, we highlight the key contributions of these synthetic approaches and how the development of novel Ub-based reagents is greatly assisting in uncovering unknown aspects of Ub signaling. We also discuss future aspirations to address unresolved questions in this exciting area of research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4971-4986
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the American Chemical Society
Issue number14
StatePublished - 12 Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Chemistry (all)
  • Biochemistry
  • Colloid and Surface Chemistry


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