The Skp1-Cul1-F-box protein (SCF) complex is one of the most well characterized types of ubiquitin ligase (E3), with the E3 activity of the complex being regulated in part at the level of complex formation. Fbxl3 is an F-box protein that is responsible for the ubiquitylation and consequent degradation of cryptochromes (Crys) and thus regulates oscillation of the circadian clock. Here we show that formation of the SCFFbxl3 complex is regulated by substrate binding in vivo. Fbxl3 did not associate with Skp1 and Cul1 to a substantial extent in transfected mammalian cells. Unexpectedly, however, formation of the SCFFbxl3 complex was markedly promoted by forced expression of its substrate Cry1 in these cells. A mutant form of Fbxl3 that does not bind to Cry1 was unable to form an SCF complex, suggesting that interaction of Cry1 with Fbxl3 is essential for formation of SCF Fbxl3. In contrast, recombinant Fbxl3 associated with recombinant Skp1 and Cul1 in vitro even in the absence of recombinant Cry1. Domain-swap analysis revealed that the COOH-terminal leucine-rich repeat domain of Fbxl3 attenuates the interaction of Skp1, suggesting that a yet unknown protein associated with the COOH-terminal domain of Fbxl3 and inhibited SCF complex formation. Our results thus provide important insight into the regulation of both SCF ubiquitin ligase activity and circadian rhythmicity.
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