The ubiquitin–proteasome system (UPS) targets selected proteins for degradation by the 26S proteasome.
The initial steps in this pathway generate proteins that are covalently tagged with a polyubiquitin chain that is then recognized by ubiquitin receptors of the 26S proteasome. This is a large complex composed of a 20S catalytic core particle and two 19S regulatory particles that catalyse the final step in the pathway. While the 20S particle is composed of a catalytic chamber for protein degradation, collectively the proteins that comprise the 19S particle perform several proteasomal functions that include recognition of ubiquitylated substrates, cleavage of the polyubiquitin chain for ubiquitin recycling, control of access to the 20S proteolytic chamber, and substrate unfolding and subsequent translocation into the 20S core particle for degradation. Mammalian proteasomes are associated with three DUBs: USP14, UCHL5 (UCH37) and RPN11 (POH1). UCHL5 and USP14 reside on the regulatory particle and remove ubiquitin from the substrate before substrate degradation whereas RPN11’s activity is delayed until the proteasome is committed to degrading the substrate. The DUB activity of USP14 is known to be activated by proteasomes.