Dual role of a GTPase conformational switch for membrane fusion by mitofusin ubiquitylation.
- Proteomics of cellular signaling
Mitochondria are essential organelles whose function is upheld by their dynamic nature. This plasticity is mediated by large dynamin-related GTPases, called mitofusins in the case of fusion between two mitochondrial outer membranes. Fusion requires ubiquitylation, attached to K398 in the yeast mitofusin Fzo1, occurring in atypical and conserved forms. Here, modelling located ubiquitylation to alpha4 of the GTPase domain, a critical helix in Ras-mediated events. Structure-driven analysis revealed a dual role of K398. First, it is required for GTP-dependent dynamic changes of alpha4. Indeed, mutations designed to restore the conformational switch, in the absence of K398, rescued wild-type-like ubiquitylation on Fzo1 and allowed fusion. Second, K398 is needed for Fzo1 recognition by the pro-fusion factors Cdc48 and Ubp2. Finally, the atypical ubiquitylation pattern is stringently required bilaterally on both involved mitochondria. In contrast, exchange of the conserved pattern with conventional ubiquitin chains was not sufficient for fusion. In sum, alpha4 lysines from both small and large GTPases could generally have an electrostatic function for membrane interaction, followed by posttranslational modifications, thus driving membrane fusion events.