Rma1 is a protein with a RING finger motif and a C-terminal membrane-anchoring domain and is well conserved among higher eukaryotes. We show that fusion proteins between maltose binding protein (MBP) and human or Arabidopsis Rma1 are polyubiquitinated, when incubated with the rabbit reticulocyte or the wheat germ lysate, respectively. The polyubiquitination of MBP-Rma1 has been reconstituted by incubation with purified ubiquitin, the ubiquitin-activating enzyme E1, and one of the two ubiquitin-conjugating E2 enzymes (Ubc4 or UbcH5a). Other E2 enzymes tested, E2-20k, E2-25k, Ubc3 and Ubc8, are not able to confer this modification. Mutational analysis shows that the RING finger motif of Rma1 is necessary for the auto-ubiquitination of MBP-Rma1. Thus, Rma1 represents a novel, membrane-bound type of ubiquitin ligase E3, which probably functions with the Ubc4/5 subfamily of E2. The MBP moiety but not Rma1 itself is ubiquitinated in the auto-ubiquitination reaction of MBP-Rma1. Free MBP in solution is not a substrate of Rma1. These observations indicate that bringing the substrate into its physical vicinity is very important for the action of ubiquitin ligase.

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