Addition of ammonium ions to yeast cells growing on proline as the sole nitrogen source induces internalization of the general amino acid permease Gap1p and its subsequent degradation in the vacuole. An essential step in this down-regulation is Gap1p ubiquitination through a process requiring the Npi1p/Rsp5p ubiquitin ligase. We show in this report that NPI2, a second gene required for NH4+-induced down-regulation of Gap1p, codes for the ubiquitin hydrolase Doa4p/Ubp4p/Ssv7p and that NH4+-induced Gap1p ubiquitination is strongly reduced in npi2 cells. The npi2 mutation results in substitution of an aromatic amino acid located in a 33-residue sequence shared by some ubiquitin hydrolases of the Ubp family. In this mutant, as in doa4(delta) cells, the amount of free monomeric ubiquitin is at least four times lower than in wild-type cells. Both ubiquitination and down-regulation of the permease can be restored in npi2 cells by over-expression of ubiquitin. In proline-grown wild-type and npi2/doa4 cells overproducing ubiquitin, Gap1p appears to be mono-ubiquitinated at two lysine acceptor sites. Addition of NH4+ triggers rapid poly-ubiquitination of Gap1p, the poly-ubiquitin chains being specifically formed by linkage through the lysine 63 residue of ubiquitin. Gap1p is thus ubiquitinated differently from the proteins targeted by ubiquitination for proteolysis by the proteasome, but in the same manner as the uracil permease, also subject to ubiquitin-dependent endocytosis. When poly-ubiquitination through Lys63 is blocked, the Gap1p permease still undergoes NH4+-induced down-regulation, but to a lesser extent.

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