The ubiquitin ligase (E3) Rsp5p is the only member of the Nedd (neural-precursor-cell-expressed, developmentally down-regulated) 4 family of E3s present in yeast. Rsp5p has several proteasome-independent functions in membrane protein trafficking, including a role in the ubiquitination of most plasma membrane proteins, leading to their endocytosis. Rsp5p is also required for the ubiquitination of endosomal proteins, leading to their sorting to the internal vesicles of MVBs (multivesicular bodies). Rsp5p catalyses the attachment of non-conventional ubiquitin chains, linked through ubiquitin Lys-63, to some endocytic and MVB cargoes. This modification appears to be required for efficient sorting, possibly because these chains have a greater affinity for the ubiquitin-binding domains present within endocytic or MVB sorting complexes. The mechanisms involved in the recognition of plasma membrane and MVB substrates by Rsp5p remain unclear. A subset of Rsp5/Nedd4 substrates have a ‘PY motif’ and are recognized directly by the WW (Trp-Trp) domains of Rsp5p. Most Rsp5p substrates do not carry PY motifs, but some may depend on PY-containing proteins for their ubiquitination by Rsp5p, consistent with the latter's acting as specificity factors or adaptors. As in other ubiquitin-conjugating systems, these adaptors are also Rsp5p substrates and undergo ubiquitin-dependent trafficking. In the present review, we discuss recent examples illustrating the role of Rsp5p in membrane protein trafficking and providing new insights into the regulation of this E3 by adaptor proteins.

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