Does the Ubiquitination Degradation Pathway Really Reach inside of the Chloroplast? A Re-Evaluation of Mass Spectrometry-Based Assignments of Ubiquitination.

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Journal of proteome research


washington; isb; genomics


A recent paper in Science Advances by Sun et al. claims that intra-chloroplast proteins in the model plant Arabidopsis can be polyubiquitinated and then extracted into the cytosol for subsequent degradation by the proteasome. Most of this conclusion hinges on several sets of mass spectrometry (MS) data. If the proposed results and conclusion are true, this would be a major change in the proteolysis/proteostasis field, breaking the long-standing dogma that there are no polyubiquitination mechanisms within chloroplast organelles (nor in mitochondria). Given its importance, we reanalyzed their raw MS data using both open and closed sequence database searches and encountered many issues not only with the results but also discrepancies between stated methods (e.g., use of alkylating agent iodoacetamide (IAA)) and observed mass modifications. Although there is likely enrichment of ubiquitination signatures in a subset of the data (probably from ubiquitination in the cytosol), we show that runaway alkylation with IAA caused extensive artifactual modifications of N termini and lysines to the point that a large fraction of the desired ubiquitination signatures is indistinguishable from artifactual acetamide signatures, and thus, no intra-chloroplast polyubiquitination conclusions can be drawn from these data. We provide recommendations on how to avoid such perils in future work.


Institute for Systems Biology