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When ubiquitination meets phosphorylation: a systems biology perspective of EGFR/MAPK signalling

Lan K Nguyen1*, Walter Kolch123 and Boris N Kholodenko123*

Author Affiliations

1 Systems Biology Ireland, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

2 Conway Institute, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

3 School of Medicine and Medical Science, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland

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Cell Communication and Signaling 2013, 11:52  doi:10.1186/1478-811X-11-52

Published: 31 July 2013


Ubiquitination, the covalent attachment of ubiquitin to target proteins, has emerged as a ubiquitous post-translational modification (PTM) whose function extends far beyond its original role as a tag for protein degradation identified three decades ago. Although sharing parallel properties with phosphorylation, ubiquitination distinguishes itself in important ways. Nevertheless, the interplay and crosstalk between ubiquitination and phosphorylation events have become a recurrent theme in cell signalling regulation. Understanding how these two major PTMs intersect to regulate signal transduction is an important research question. In this review, we first discuss the involvement of ubiquitination in the regulation of the EGF-mediated ERK signalling pathway via the EGF receptor, highlighting the interplay between ubiquitination and phosphorylation in this cancer-implicated system and addressing open questions. The roles of ubiquitination in pathways crosstalking to EGFR/MAPK signalling will then be discussed. In the final part of the review, we demonstrate the rich and versatile dynamics of crosstalk between ubiquitination and phosphorylation by using quantitative modelling and analysis of network motifs commonly observed in cellular processes. We argue that given the overwhelming complexity arising from inter-connected PTMs, a quantitative framework based on systems biology and mathematical modelling is needed to efficiently understand their roles in cell signalling.

Ubiquitination; Ubiquitination-phosphorylation crosstalk; Quantitative modelling; Phosphorylation-induced ubiquitination; MAPK signalling