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Reviewed May 2012

What is the official name of the UCHL1 gene?

The official name of this gene is “ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1.”

UCHL1 is the gene's official symbol. The UCHL1 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 UCHL1 gene?

The UCHL1 gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1. This enzyme is found in nerve cells throughout the brain. Ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 is probably involved in the cell machinery that breaks down (degrades) unneeded proteins. In cells, damaged or excess proteins are tagged with molecules called ubiquitin. Ubiquitin serves as a signal to move these unneeded proteins into specialized structures known as proteasomes, where the proteins are degraded. The ubiquitin-proteasome system acts as the cell's quality control system by disposing of damaged, misshapen, and excess proteins.

Although the exact function of ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 is not fully understood, it appears to have two types of enzyme activity. One of these, called hydrolase activity, removes and recycles ubiquitin molecules from degraded proteins. This recycling step is important to sustain the degradation process. The other enzyme function, known as ligase activity, links together ubiquitin molecules for use in tagging proteins for disposal.

Does the UCHL1 gene share characteristics with other genes?

The UCHL1 gene belongs to a family of genes called PARK (Parkinson disease).

A gene family is a group of genes that share important characteristics. Classifying individual genes into families helps researchers describe how genes are related to each other. For more information, see What are gene families? in the Handbook.

How are changes in the UCHL1 gene related to health conditions?

Parkinson disease - associated with the UCHL1 gene

A relatively common variation (polymorphism) in the UCHL1 gene may reduce the risk of developing Parkinson disease, a condition characterized by progressive problems with movement and balance. The variation leads to a change in one of the building blocks (amino acids) used to make ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1. Instead of serine at position 18 in the enzyme's chain of amino acids, people with the polymorphism have the amino acid tyrosine (written as Ser18Tyr or S18Y). This change is most common in Chinese and Japanese populations and occurs less frequently in European populations. The polymorphism reduces the ligase activity of ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 but has little effect on the hydrolase activity. Some studies suggest that having the S18Y polymorphism may help protect against Parkinson disease, particularly in young adults. However, other studies have not shown this effect. It remains unclear how this amino acid variation might reduce the risk of developing Parkinson disease.

A different change in the UCHL1 gene may increase the risk of Parkinson disease. This mutation has been reported in two siblings with the disease. The mutation replaces the amino acid isoleucine with the amino acid methionine at position 93 in ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 (written as Ile93Met or I93M). The mutation leads to decreased hydrolase activity, which may disrupt the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Instead of being degraded, unneeded proteins could accumulate to toxic levels that impair or kill nerve cells in the brain. The loss of these cells weakens communication between the brain and muscles, and ultimately the brain becomes unable to control muscle movement. It is unclear whether this UCHL1 gene mutation is a true risk factor for Parkinson disease, because it has been identified in only one family.

Where is the UCHL1 gene located?

Cytogenetic Location: 4p14

Molecular Location on chromosome 4: base pairs 41,256,881 to 41,268,429

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

The UCHL1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 4 at position 14.

The UCHL1 gene is located on the short (p) arm of chromosome 4 at position 14.

More precisely, the UCHL1 gene is located from base pair 41,256,881 to base pair 41,268,429 on chromosome 4.

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

Where can I find additional information about UCHL1?

You and your healthcare professional may find the following resources about UCHL1 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 UCHL1 gene or gene products?

  • MSY1
  • neuron cytoplastic protein 9.5
  • PARK5
  • PGP9.5
  • ubiquitin carboxyl-terminal esterase L1 (ubiquitin thiolesterase)
  • ubiquitin thiolesterase
  • UBL1
  • UCHL-1

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 UCHL1?

acids ; amino acid ; carboxyl ; cell ; degradation ; enzyme ; gene ; hydrolase ; isoleucine ; ligase ; methionine ; mutation ; neuron ; polymorphism ; proteasome ; protein ; serine ; toxic ; tyrosine ; ubiquitin

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

See also Understanding Medical Terminology.

References (9 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: May 2012
Published: February 8, 2016