The SWA2/AUX1 gene has been proposed to encode the Saccharomyces cerevisiae ortholog of mammalian auxilin. Swa2p is required for clathrin assembly/dissassembly in vivo, thereby implicating it in intracellular protein and lipid trafficking. While investigating the 287-residue N-terminal region of Swa2p, we found a single stably folded domain between residues 140 and 180. Using binding assays and structural analysis, we established this to be a ubiquitin-associated (UBA) domain, unidentified by bioinformatics of the yeast genome. We determined the solution structure of this Swa2p domain and found a characteristic three-helix UBA fold. Comparisons of structures of known UBA folds reveal that the position of the third helix is quite variable. This helix in Swa2p UBA contains a bulkier tyrosine in place of smaller residues found in other UBAs and cannot pack as close to the second helix. The molecular surface of Swa2p UBA has a mostly negative potential, with a single hydrophobic surface patch found also in the UBA domains of human protein, HHR23A. The presence of a UBA domain implicates Swa2p in novel roles involving ubiquitin and ubiquitinated substrates. We propose that Swa2p is a multifunctional protein capable of recognizing several proteins through its protein-protein recognition domains.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.