In vitro SUMOylation assay to study SUMO E3 ligase activity

Wan Shan Yang, Mel Campbell, Hsing Jien Kung*, Pei Ching Chang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) modification is an important post-translational modification (PTM) that mediates signal transduction primarily through modulating protein-protein interactions. Similar to ubiquitin modification, SUMOylation is directed by a sequential enzyme cascade including E1-activating enzyme (SAE1/SAE2), E2-conjugation enzyme (Ubc9), and E3-ligase (i.e., PIAS family, RanBP2, and Pc2). However, different from ubiquitination, an E3 ligase is non-essential for the reaction but does provide precision and efficacy for SUMO conjugation. Proteins modified by SUMOylation can be identified by in vivo assay via immunoprecipitation with substrate-specific antibodies and immunoblotting with SUMO-specific antibodies. However, the demonstration of protein SUMO E3 ligase activity requires in vitro reconstitution of SUMOylation assays using purified enzymes, substrate, and SUMO proteins. Since in the in vitro reactions, usually SAE1/SAE2 and Ubc9, alone are sufficient for SUMO conjugation, enhancement of SUMOylation by a putative E3 ligase is not always easy to detect. Here, we describe a modified in vitro SUMOylation protocol that consistently identifies SUMO modification using an in vitro reconstituted system. A step-by-step protocol to purify catalytically active K-bZIP, a viral SUMO-2/3 E3 ligase, is also presented. The SUMOylation activities of the purified K-bZIP are shown on p53, a well-known target of SUMO. This protocol can not only be employed for elucidating novel SUMO E3 ligases, but also for revealing their SUMO paralog specificity.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere56629
JournalJournal of Visualized Experiments
Issue number131
StatePublished - 29 Jan 2018


  • In vitro SUMOylation
  • Issue 131
  • K-bZIP
  • Molecular Biology
  • P53
  • Post-translational modification
  • SUMO E3 ligase
  • Ubc9


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