Skip Navigation
Genetics Home Reference: your guide to understanding genetic conditions About   Site Map   Contact Us
Home A service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine®
Printer-friendly version


Reviewed October 2011

What is the official name of the UBE3A gene?

The official name of this gene is “ubiquitin protein ligase E3A.”

UBE3A is the gene's official symbol. The UBE3A gene is also known by other names, listed below.

Read more about gene names and symbols on the About page.

What is the normal function of the UBE3A gene?

The UBE3A gene provides instructions for making a protein called ubiquitin protein ligase E3A. Ubiquitin protein ligases are enzymes that target other proteins to be broken down (degraded) within cells. These enzymes attach a small protein called ubiquitin to proteins that should be degraded. Cellular structures called proteasomes recognize and digest these ubiquitin-tagged proteins. Protein degradation is a normal process that removes damaged or unnecessary proteins and helps maintain the normal functions of cells.

Studies suggest that ubiquitin protein ligase E3A plays a critical role in the normal development and function of the nervous system. However, its exact role in nervous system cells is unclear.

People normally inherit two copies of the UBE3A gene, one from each parent. Both copies of the gene are turned on (active) in most of the body's tissues. In certain areas of the brain, however, only the copy inherited from a person's mother (the maternal copy) is active. This parent-specific gene activation results from a phenomenon known as genomic imprinting.

How are changes in the UBE3A gene related to health conditions?

Angelman syndrome - caused by mutations in the UBE3A gene

A loss of UBE3A gene function in the brain likely causes many of the characteristic features of Angelman syndrome, a complex genetic disorder that primarily affects the nervous system. This loss of function results from a chromosomal change or gene mutation that affects the maternal copy of the gene.

Several different genetic mechanisms can turn off (inactivate) or delete the UBE3A gene. Most cases of Angelman syndrome (about 70 percent) occur when a segment of the maternal chromosome 15 containing this gene is deleted. In another 11 percent of cases, Angelman syndrome results from mutations within the UBE3A gene itself. Most of these mutations lead to the production of an abnormally short, nonfunctional version of ubiquitin protein ligase E3A. Because the copy of the gene inherited from a person's father (the paternal copy) is normally inactive in some areas of the brain, loss of the maternal copy prevents any of the enzyme from being produced in these brain regions. This lack of enzyme function likely causes the major signs and symptoms of Angelman syndrome.

Other abnormalities involving the region of chromosome 15 that contains the UBE3A gene can also cause Angelman syndrome. These chromosomal changes include rearrangements (translocations) of genetic material or a defect in the region of DNA that controls activation of the UBE3A gene. Like mutations within the gene, these chromosomal changes prevent any functional ubiquitin protein ligase E3A from being produced in certain parts of the brain.

Where is the UBE3A gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 15q11.2

Molecular Location on chromosome 15: base pairs 25,337,234 to 25,439,043

(Homo sapiens Annotation Release 107, GRCh38.p2) (NCBIThis link leads to a site outside Genetics Home Reference.)

The UBE3A gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 15 at position 11.2.

The UBE3A gene is located on the long (q) arm of chromosome 15 at position 11.2.

More precisely, the UBE3A gene is located from base pair 25,337,234 to base pair 25,439,043 on chromosome 15.

See How do geneticists indicate the location of a gene? in the Handbook.

Where can I find additional information about UBE3A?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about UBE3A helpful.

You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for genetics professionals and researchers.

What other names do people use for the UBE3A gene or gene products?

  • ANCR
  • CTCL tumor antigen se37-2
  • E6-AP
  • E6AP ubiquitin-protein ligase
  • HPVE6A
  • human papilloma virus E6-associated protein
  • oncogenic protein-associated protein E6-AP
  • ubiquitin protein ligase E3A (human papilloma virus E6-associated protein, Angelman syndrome)

Where can I find general information about genes?

The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.

These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.

What glossary definitions help with understanding UBE3A?

centrosome ; chromosome ; degradation ; DNA ; enzyme ; gene ; imprinting ; inherit ; inherited ; ligase ; maternal ; mutation ; nervous system ; papilloma ; protein ; syndrome ; tumor ; ubiquitin ; virus

You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (11 links)


The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.

Reviewed: October 2011
Published: February 1, 2016