Deconjugating enzymes (DCEs) are proteases that process ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like gene products, reverse the modification of proteins by a single ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like protein (UBL) and remodel polyubiquitin (or poly-UBL) chains on target proteins (Reyes-Turcu et al., 2009). The deubiquitylating - or deubiquitinating - enzymes (DUBs) represent the largest family of DCEs and regulate ubiquitin dependent signalling pathways. The activities of the DUBs include the generation of free ubiquitin from precursor molecules, the recycling of ubiquitin following substrate degradation to maintain cellular ubiquitin homeostasis and the removal of ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins (UBL) modifications through chain editing to rescue proteins from proteasomal degradation or to influence cell signalling events (Komander et al., 2009). There are two main classes of DUB; cysteine proteases and metalloproteases. Ataxin-3L is a cysteine protease and a member of the Machado-Joseph Domain (MJD) enzyme family. Cloning of the human gene was first described by Gerhard et al. (2004). Machado–Joseph disease (MJD), the most common form of spinocerebellar ataxia worldwide, is a progressive and ultimately fatal neurodegenerative disorder caused by polyQ expansion in ataxin-3, a conserved and ubiquitous protein known to bind polyubiquitin chains and to function as a deubiquitylating enzyme. Ataxin-3 has been linked to protein homeostasis maintenance, transcription, cytoskeleton regulation and myogenesis (Matos et al., 2011). Ataxin-3L shares 85% sequence identity with ataxin-3 although it has recently been shown that the Josephin domain of ataxin-3L demonstrates substantially higher deubiquitylating activity than the ataxin-3 Josephin domain (Weeks et al., 2011).
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