The proteasome subcomponents are often referred to by their Svedberg sedimentation coefficient (denoted S). The most common form of the proteasome is known as the 26S proteasome, which is about 2000 kilodaltons (kDa) in molecular mass and contains one 20S core particle structure and two 19S regulatory caps. The core is hollow and provides an enclosed cavity in which proteins are degraded; openings at the two ends of the core allow the target protein to enter. Each end of the core particle associates with a 19S regulatory subunit that contains multiple ATPase active sites and ubiquitin binding sites; it is this structure that recognizes polyubiquitinated proteins and transfers them to the catalytic core. An alternative form of regulatory subunit called the 11S particle can associate with the core in essentially the same manner as the 19S particle; the 11S may play a role in degradation of foreign peptides such as those produced after infection by a virus.
20S core particle
The number and diversity of subunits contained in the 20S core particle depends on the organism; the number of distinct and specialized subunits is larger in multicellular than unicellular organisms and larger in eukaryotes than in prokaryotes. All 20S particles consist of four stacked heptameric ring structures that are themselves composed of two different types of subunits; α subunits are structural in nature, whereas β subunits are predominantly catalytic. The outer two rings in the stack consist of seven α subunits each, which serve as docking domains for the regulatory particles and the alpha subunits N-termini form a gate that blocks unregulated access of substrates to the interior cavity. The inner two rings each consist of seven β subunits and contain the protease active sites that perform the proteolysis reactions. The size of the proteasome is relatively conserved and is about 150 angstroms (Å) by 115 Å. The interior chamber is at most 53 Å wide, though the entrance can be as narrow as 13 Å, suggesting that substrate proteins must be at least partially unfolded to enter.
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