Human liver CYP2E1 is a monotopic, endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-anchored cytochrome P450 (P450) responsible for the biotransformation of clinically-relevant drugs, low molecular weight xenobiotics, carcinogens and endogenous ketones. CYP2E1 substrate- complexation converts it into a stable slow-turnover species degraded largely via autophagic lysosomal degradation (ALD). Substrate decomplexation/withdrawal results in a fast-turnover CYP2E1 species, putatively generated through its futile oxidative cycling, that incurs ER-associated ubiquitin-dependent proteasomal degradation (UPD). CYP2E1 thus exhibits biphasic turnover in the mammalian liver. We now show upon heterologous expression of human CYP2E1 in Saccharomyces cerevisiae that its ALD and UPD pathways are evolutionarily conserved, even though its potential for futile catalytic cycling is low due to its sluggish catalytic activity in yeast. This suggested that other factors (i.e. post-translational modifications or degrons) contribute to its UPD. Indeed, in cultured human hepatocytes, CYP2E1 is detectably ubiquitinated, and this is enhanced on its mechanism-based inactivation. Studies in Ubc7p- and Ubc5p-genetically deficient yeast strains versus corresponding isogenic wild types identified these ubiquitin-conjugating E2 enzymes as relevant to CYP2E1 UPD. Consistent with this, in vitro functional reconstitution analyses revealed that mammalian UBC7/gp78 and UbcH5a/CHIP E2-E3 ubiquitin-ligases were capable of ubiquitinating CYP2E1, a process enhanced by protein kinase (PK) A and/or PKC inclusion. Inhibition of PKA or PKC blocked intracellular CYP2E1 ubiquitination and turnover. Herein, through mass spectrometric analyses we identify some CYP2E1 phosphorylation/ubiquitination sites in spatially associated clusters. We propose that these CYP2E1 phosphorylation clusters may serve to engage each E2-E3 ubiquitination complex in vitro and intracellularly.
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