By: Marina Pantazopoulou

Title: Protein Quality Control at the Inner Nuclear Membrane – The Asi complex in Saccharomyces cerevisiae


The nuclear envelope is a barrier comprised of outer and inner membranes that separate the cytoplasm from the nucleoplasm. The outer (ONM) and inner (INM) membranes have different physical characteristics and protein compositions. In contrast to the extensive data available on the protein quality control processes operating in the cytoplasm, endoplasmic reticulum and the nucleoplasm, the mechanisms controlling protein turnover at the INM are poorly documented. The work presented in this thesis focuses on Asi1, Asi2 and Asi3, three bona-fide integral INM proteins of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. By contrast to mammalian cells, yeast progress through the cell cycle with a closed mitosis, that is cells divide in the absence of the cyclical fragmentation/reassembly of the nuclear membrane. Consequently, examining the processes affecting the stability of the Asi proteins in yeast may provide useful paradigms for understanding the turnover of INM components in non-dividing, terminally differentiated and post-mitotic cells of metazoan origin.The results have contributed to the elucidation of the biological function of Asi1 and Asi3, which are homologous proteins with C-terminal RING domains. Asi1 and Asi3 function together as a dimeric E3 ubiquitin ligase complex that operates with ubiquitin conjugating enzymes Ubc6 and Ubc7. The Asi1/3 complex ubiquitylates transcription factors Stp1 and Stp2 when they gain inappropriate access to the nucleus in the absence of SPS-sensor activation. Intriguingly, the Asi1/3 complex also mediates the turnover of multiple membrane proteins that primarily localize to other cell membranes. This latter finding indicates that the barrier function of nuclear pore complexes is not as tight as previously thought. Consistently, asi1 null mutations are synthetic lethal when introduced into hrd1Δ ire2Δ cells with compromised ER-associated degradation (ERAD) and unfolded protein response (UPR) pathways. Together the results define Asi1/3 as components of a novel quality control pathway operating in association with the INM that acts to safeguard the identity and maintain the function of the nuclear compartment. Asi1 and Asi2 exhibit rapid turnover and their turnover is
ubiquitin-dependent, exhibiting a clear requirement for Ubc7. The ubiquitylated forms of Asi1 and Asi2 are degraded by nuclear-localized proteasomes; the ubiquitylated forms exhibit enhanced stability in sts1-2 mutants. Asi1 turnover requires Cue1, the AAA ATPase Cdc48 and co-factor Ubx1. Asi1 turnover occurs unimpeded in cells lacking a functional Asi1/3 complex and in cells lacking Doa10, an E3 ligase complex also known to function at the INM. Consequently, Asi1 is subject to a quality control pathway associated with INM but that is distinct from the Asi1/3 and Doa10 INM-associated degradative (INMAD) pathways. This thesis documents work that clearly demonstrates that the INM is a highly dynamic structure that possesses multiple and active quality control pathways.