The detection of isolated heart block in utero strongly predicts the presen
ce of maternal autoantibodies reactive with 52 kDa. SSA/Ro. The mechanisms
that underlie this observation may be elucidated by defining the function o
f the target antigen. The initial approach was to identify proteins interac
tive with 52Ro using transcriptional activity in the yeast 2-hybrid system.
A cDNA library was constructed using RNA isolated from human fetal hearts
(12-23 weeks) and cloned into the HybriZAP vector encoding the activation d
omain of GAL4(AD) as target. Approximately 7 x 10(6) cDNAs were cotransform
ed with the bait into YRG-2. Plasmids from five interactive colonies were s
equenced and three identified as the specific human deubiquitinating enzyme
, UnpEL. UnpEL did not interact with bait plasmid encoding 52 beta, an alte
rnative leucine zipper-minus form of 52 kDa SSA/Ro which is maximally expre
ssed in fetal life. The mammalian 2-hybrid assay confirmed the interaction
between full-length 52Ro and UnpEL. Further support for a biologic interact
ion was the marked redistribution in cellular localization of UnpEL followi
ng cotransfection of the two proteins into cultured human cardiocytes, huma
n renal carcinoma cells (293 cells), and monkey kidney fibroblasts (COS-I).
In conclusion, the interaction of full-length 52Ro and UnpEL implies that
the former may also be involved in the ubiquitin pathway, an observation of
particular interest since 52Ro contains a RING finger domain, a motif comm
on to several recently reported proteins involved in modulating ubiquitinat
ion. The absence of an interaction with 52 beta raises the consideration th
at regulation of protein ubiquitination might differ in fetal life. (C) 200
1 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.