While am reading about protein sumoylation this morning I got stuck on sumo interaction motifs and consensus motif line. I heard the the word motifs for the first time. What does motifs mean in this context and What does canonical Sumo consensus motif ΨKx(D/E) mean also? Would you please elaborate the formula and thanks in advance.


1 Answer 1


A motif means a pattern. Since nucleotides and proteins have a sequence, they can have some patterns of sub-sequence that may serve some kind of function. For example TATA box in DNA serves as a promoter element. Similarly proteins can have some sequence motifs that can serve as recognition sites for binding partners (amongst other functions). Similarly there can be structural motifs in proteins, network motifs in big networks etc.

In this case the motif is a sequence motif.

From Gareau and Lima (2010):

Many SUMO-modified proteins identified contain an acceptor Lys within a ψKX(D/E) consensus motif, where ψ is a large hydrophobic residue

This motif serves as a recognition site for the SUMO-Ligase.


X=Any amino acid
D=Aspartic acid
E=Glutamic acid

From the below figures (Rodriguez et al., 2000), you can observe that ψ can be leucine (L) (original residue in Ran GAP1), isoleucine (I), phenylalanine (F) or valine (V).

I am not sure about the effect of double hydrophobic residues on rate of SUMO conjugation.

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  • $\begingroup$ @Meti If this answer addressed your problem, please consider accepting it by clicking on the check mark/tick to the left of the answer, turning it green. This marks the question as resolved to your satisfaction, and awards reputation both to you and the person who answered. $\endgroup$
    – MattDMo
    Jun 10, 2016 at 16:43
  • $\begingroup$ @WYSIWYG I did not understand what the plus signs mean in the figure. So could you please explain the figures more in detail. Thanks $\endgroup$
    – Meti
    Jun 13, 2016 at 5:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Meti It is just an arbitrary symbol to denote affinity; more plus signs means higher affinity. You can have a look at the paper for more details. $\endgroup$
    Jun 13, 2016 at 8:06

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