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BACKGROUND: Phosphorylation by the phospho-inositide-dependent kinase 1 (PDK1) is essential for many growth factor-activated kinases and thus plays a critical role in various processes such as cell proliferation and metabolism. However, the mechanisms that control PDK1 have not been fully explored and this is of great importance as interfering with PDK1 signaling may be useful to treat diseases, including cancer and diabetes. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: In human cells, few mono-ubiquitinated proteins have been described but in all cases this post-translational modification has a key regulatory function. Unexpectedly, we find that PDK1 is mono-ubiquitinated in a variety of human cell lines, indicating that PDK1 ubiquitination is a common and regulated process. Ubiquitination occurs in the kinase domain of PDK1 yet is independent of its kinase activity. By screening a library of ubiquitin proteases, we further identify the Ubiquitin-Specific Protease 4 (USP4) as an enzyme that removes ubiquitin from PDK1 in vivo and in vitro and co-localizes with PDK1 at the plasma membrane when the two proteins are overexpressed, indicating direct deubiquitination. CONCLUSIONS: The regulated mono-ubiquitination of PDK1 provides an unanticipated layer of complexity in this central signaling network and offers potential novel avenues for drug discovery.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





3-Phosphoinositide-Dependent Protein Kinases, Cell Line, Humans, Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Membrane Proteins, Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases, Signal Transduction, Ubiquitin Thiolesterase, Ubiquitin-Specific Proteases, Ubiquitination