A ubiquitin conjugating enzyme encoded by African swine fever virus.
The post-translational modification of proteins by covalent attachment of ubiquitin occurs in all eukaryotes by a multi-step process. A family of E2 or ubiquitin conjugating (UBC) enzymes catalyse one step of this process and these have been implicated in several diverse regulatory functions. We report here the sequence of a gene encoded by African swine fever virus (ASFV) which has high homology with UBC enzymes. This ASFV encoded enzyme has UBC activity when expressed in Escherichia coli since it forms thiolester bonds with [125I]ubiquitin in the presence of purified ubiquitin activating enzyme (E1) and ATP, and subsequently transfers [125I]ubiquitin to specific protein substrates. These substrates include histones, ubiquitin and the UBC enzyme itself. The ASFV encoded UBC enzyme is similar in structure and enzyme activity to the yeast ubiquitin conjugating enzymes UBC2 and UBC3. This is the first report of a virus encoding a functionally active UBC enzyme and provides an example of the exploitation of host regulatory mechanisms by viruses.