Abstract

Farnesoid X receptor (FXR) is a ligand-activated nuclear receptor that plays a central role in regulating genes involved in bile acid homeostasis, and fat and glucose metabolism. Here, we demonstrate a post-translational interplay between FXR phosphorylation, SUMOylation, and ubiquitination that directs the receptor into an activation-degradation pathway in hepatocytes. We identify a non-canonical SUMOylation motif termed pSuM that conjugates SUMO2 at Lys-325 of FXR under the direct control of casein kinase 2 (CK2), which provides the required negative charge for Ubc9 and PIAS1 to perform SUMOylation, by phosphorylating Ser-327. Lys-325 SUMOylation is indispensable to the promotion of efficient ligand activation and transcriptional coactivation of FXR. Constitutive pSuM activation using a phospho-mimic Ser-327 mutant or catalytic CK2 expression strongly induces SUMO2 conjugation, which directs FXR ubiquitination and proteasome-dependent degradation. We also determine that such SUMOylation-dependent ubiquitination of FXR is mediated by the E3 ubiquitin ligase RNF4, which is required to achieve maximal induction of FXR and optimal up- or downregulation of responsive genes involved in bile acid homeostasis and liver regeneration. Our findings identify a highly regulated atypical SUMO conjugation motif that serves to coordinate FXR transcriptional competence, thereby expanding the intricate dynamics of the SUMOylation process used by incoming signals to govern metabolic gene regulation.

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