The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) mediates the majority of the proteolysis seen in the cytoplasm and nucleus of mammalian cells. As such it plays an important role in the regulation of a variety of physiological and pathophysiological processes including tumorigenesis, inflammation and cell death (Ciechanover, 2005; Kisselev and Goldberg, 2001). A number of recent studies have shown that proteasome activity is decreased in a variety of neurological disorders including Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and stroke as well as during normal aging (Chung et al., 2001; Ciechanover and Brundin, 2003; Betarbet et al., 2005). This decrease in proteasome activity is thought to play a critical role in the accumulation of abnormal and oxidized proteins. Protein clearance by the UPS involves two sequential reactions. The first is the tagging of protein lysine residues with ubiquitin (Ub) and the second is the subsequent degradation of the tagged proteins by the proteasome. We herein describe an assay for the second of these two reactions (Valera et al., 2013). This assay uses fluorogenic substrates for each of the three activities of the proteasome: chymotrypsin-like activity, trypsin-like activity and caspase-like activity. Cleavage of the fluorophore from the substrate by the proteasome results in fluorescence that can be detected with a fluorescent plate reader.
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