The ubiquitin 26S proteasome proteolytic pathway

Jan Smalle, Richard D. Vierstra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1104 Scopus citations


Much of plant physiology, growth, and development is controlled by the selective removal of short-lived regulatory proteins. One important proteolytic pathway involves the small protein ubiquitin (Ub) and the 26S proteasome, a 2-MDa protease complex. In this pathway, Ub is attached to proteins destined for degradation; the resulting Ub-protein conjugates are then recognized and catabolized by the 26S proteasome. This review describes our current understanding of the pathway in plants at the biochemical, genomic, and genetic levels, using Arabidopsis thaliana as the model. Collectively, these analyses show that the Ub/26S proteasome pathway is one of the most elaborate regulatory mechanisms in plants. The genome of Arabidopsis encodes more than 1400 (or >5% of the proteome) pathway components that can be connected to almost all aspects of its biology. Most pathway components participate in the Ub-ligation reactions that choose with exquisite specificity which proteins should be ubiquitinated. What remains to be determined is the identity of the targets, which may number in the thousands in plants.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)555-590
Number of pages36
JournalAnnual Review of Plant Biology
StatePublished - 2004


  • Arabidopsis
  • Cell regulation
  • Polypeptide tags
  • Proteolysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Plant Science
  • Cell Biology


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