The HECT ubiquitin-protein ligase (UPL) family in Arabidopsis: UPL3 has a specific role in trichome development

Brian P. Downes, Robert M. Stupar, Derek J. Gingerich, Richard D. Vierstra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

166 Scopus citations


Attachment of one or more ubiquitins (Ubs) to various intracellular proteins has a number of roles in plants including the selective removal of regulatory proteins by the 26S proteasome. The final step in this modification is performed by ubiquitin-protein ligases (E3s) that promote Ub transfer to appropriate targets. One important family of E3s is defined by the presence of a HECT domain, an active site first found at the C-terminus of the human E3 (E6-AP). Using a consensus HECT domain as the query, we identified a family of seven HECT-containing ubiquitin-protein ligases (UPL1-UPL7) in Arabidopsis thaliana that can be grouped into four subfamilies. The UPL3 and UPL4 subfamily encodes approximately 200-kDa proteins with four Armadillo repeats similar to those in the nuclear pore protein importin-α, suggesting that these E3s identify their targets through binding to nuclear localization sequences. Although T-DNA disruptions of the UPL3 locus do not affect overall growth and development of Arabidopsis, the mutants show aberrant trichome morphology. Instead of developing three branches, many upl3 trichomes contain five or more branches. The upl3 trichomes also often undergo an additional round of endoreplication resulting in enlarged nuclei with ploidy levels of up to 64C. upl3 plants are hypersensitive to gibberellic acid-3 (GA3), consistent with the role of gibberellins in trichome development. The phenotype of upl3 mutants is similar to that of kaktus, a previously described set of trichome mutants with supernumerary branches. Genetic analyses confirmed that upl3 mutants and kaktus-2 are allelic with kaktus-2 plants harboring a splice-site mutation within the UPL3-transcribed region. Collectively, the data indicate that the ubiquitination of one or more activator proteins by UPL3 is necessary to repress excess branching and endoreplication of Arabidopsis trichomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)729-742
Number of pages14
JournalPlant Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Arabidopsis
  • Endoreplication
  • Gibberellin
  • HECT-ubiquitin ligase
  • Trichome
  • Ubiquitin


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