Ubiquitylation regulates vesicle trafficking and innate immune responses on the phagosome of inflammatory macrophages

  • Orsolya Bilkei-Gorzo

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Macrophages are sentinels present in most tissues of the body, where they recognise and respond to biological dangers. Recognition and uptake of particles is mediated through phagocytic receptors which upon activation induce appropriate responses. These responses need to be tightly regulated in order to destroy pathogens but prevent uncontrolled inflammation. Phagocytosis is an evolutionarily conserved process required for host defence and homeostasis. During phagocytosis, particles are recognised by cell surface receptors that trigger rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton and internalization of the bound particle into a de novo, membranous organelle known as the phagosome. Regulation of phagocytosis and phagosome maturation can be achieved through changes in transcription/translation and differential recruitment of proteins but also through their non-translational modifications. Here I explored the role of ubiquitylation in the phagosome biogenesis of Interferon-gamma (IFN-ɣ) activated macrophages. Ubiquitylation is a diverse, reversible post-translational modification which is not only involved in protein degradation but also in vesicle trafficking and immune signalling.
My data shows that phagosomes are enriched in polyubiquitylation, which is further enhanced by IFN-ɣ. I applied a targeted AQUA peptide approach by which we quantified ubiquitin chain linkage peptides from phagosome samples by PRM. This data shows that all chain linkages apart from M1/linear chains are present on phagosomes. Furthermore, IFN-ɣ activation enhanced K11, K48 and K63 chains significantly. In order to identify the molecular function of this polyubiquitylation, I characterized the ubiquitinome of phagosomes of IFN-γ activated macrophages and can demonstrate that ubiquitylation is preferentially attached to proteins involved in vesicle trafficking, thereby delaying fusion with late endosomes and lysosomes. I demonstrated that most ubiquitin chains are on the cytoplasmic site of the phagosome enabling an interaction of ubiquitin chains with cytosolic proteins such as Rab7. Rab7 a major regulator of vesicle trafficking could be shown to be ubiquitylated on phagosomes. I further showed that phagosomal recruitment of the E3 ligase RNF115 is enhanced upon IFN-γ stimulation and RNF115 is responsible for most of the increase of K63 polyubiquitylation of phagosomal proteins. Knock-down of RNF115 promotes phagosome maturation and induces an increased pro-inflammatory response to Toll-like receptor (TLR) agonists, indicating that RNF115 is a negative regulator of vesicular trafficking to the lysosome and disruption of this pathway induces pro-inflammatory responses in macrophages. In conclusion, this is the first study showing unbiasedly that ubiquitylation plays an important role in vesicle trafficking to the lysosome.
Date of Award2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorMatthias Trost (Supervisor)


  • macrophages
  • phagocytosis
  • signalling pathway
  • ubiquitylation
  • rnf115
  • phagosome maturation

Cite this