Ring finger protein 11 (RNF11) is a small RING E3-ligase overexpressed in numerous human prostate, colon and invasive breast cancers. Although functional studies have implicated RNF11 in a variety of biological processes, including signal transduction and apoptosis, the molecular mechanisms underlying its function are still poorly understood. In this study we show that RNF11 is a membrane-associated E3 ligase co-localizing with markers of both the early and the recycling endosomes. Several modification and protein interaction signals in the RNF11 sequence are shown to affect its compartmentalization. Membrane binding requires two acylation motifs driving the myristoylation of Gly2 and the S-palmitoylation of Cys4. Accordingly, genetic removal of the myristoylating signal results in diffuse staining, whereas an RNF11 protein mutated in the palmitoylation signal is retained in compartments of the early secretory pathway. However, amino-terminal fusion to green fluorescent protein of a 10-residue peptide containing both acylation signals re-localizes the chimera to the plasma membrane, but it is not sufficient to direct it to the recycling compartment suggesting that additional signals contribute to the correct localization. In addition, we show that membrane anchoring through acylation is necessary for RNF11 to be post-translationally modified by the addition of several ubiquitin moieties and that loss of acylation severely impairs the in vivo ubiquitination mediated by the HECT E3-ligases Itch and Nedd4. Finally, in cells transfected with RNF11 we observe a correlation between high RNF11 expression, as in tumor cells, and a swelling of the endosomal compartment suggesting a possible role of the dysregulation of the endosome compartment in tumorigenesis.
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