The Ubiquitin-Proteasome Pathway and Its Role in Cancer

Department of Oncology, Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, Georgetown University, 3800 Reservoir Rd NW, Washington, DC 20007-2197, USA.
Journal of Clinical Oncology (Impact Factor: 18.43). 08/2005; 23(21):4776-89. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2005.05.081
Source: PubMed


Critical cellular processes are regulated, in part, by maintaining the appropriate intracellular levels of proteins. Whereas de novo protein synthesis is a comparatively slow process, proteins are rapidly degraded at a rate compatible with the control of cell cycle transitions and cell death induction. A major pathway for protein degradation is initiated by the addition of multiple 76-amino acid ubiquitin monomers via a three-step process of ubiquitin activation and substrate recognition. Polyubiquitination targets proteins for recognition and processing by the 26S proteasome, a cylindrical organelle that recognizes ubiquitinated proteins, degrades the proteins, and recycles ubiquitin. The critical roles played by ubiquitin-mediated protein turnover in cell cycle regulation makes this process a target for oncogenic mutations. Oncogenes of several common malignancies, for example colon and renal cell cancer, code for ubiquitin ligase components. Cervical oncogenesis by human papillomavirus is also mediated by alteration of ubiquitin ligase pathways. Protein degradation pathways are also targets for cancer therapy, as shown by the successful introduction of bortezomib, an inhibitor of the 26S proteasome. Further work in this area holds great promise toward our understanding and treatment of a wide range of cancers.

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Available from: Edward Gelmann, May 22, 2015
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    • "Ubiquitin C is a small regulatory protein that labels proteins to be transported and destroyed in proteasomes (58), and its role in colorectal carcinogenesis and colorectal cancer prognosis was recently reviewed (59). In most sporadic colorectal cancers, mutations in APC prevent the ubiquitination of β-catenin, which is a transcription factor involved in cell proliferation. "
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    ABSTRACT: Purpose: Pre-operative chemoradiation (CRT) is currently the standard of care for patients with clinical stage II and III rectal cancer but only about 45% of patients achieve tumor downstaging and <20% of patients achieve a pathologic complete response. Better methods to stratify patients according to potential neoadjuvant treatment response are needed. We used microarray analysis to identify a genetic signature that correlates with a pathological complete response (pCR) to neoadjuvant CRT. We performed a gene network analysis to identify potential signaling pathways involved in determining response to neoadjuvant treatment. Patients and Methods: We identified 31 T3–4 N0–1 rectal cancer patients who were treated with neoadjuvant fluorouracil-based CRT. Eight patients were identified to have achieved a pCR to treatment while 23 patients did not. mRNA expression was analyzed using cDNA microarrays. The correlation between mRNA expression and pCR from pre-treatment tumor biopsies was determined. Gene network analysis was performed for the genes represented by the predictive signature. Results: A genetic signature represented by expression levels of the three genes EHBP1, STAT1, and GAPDH was found to correlate with a pCR to neoadjuvant treatment. The difference in expression levels between patients who achieved a pCR and those who did not was greatest for EHBP1. Gene network analysis showed that the three genes can be connected by the gene ubiquitin C (UBC). Conclusion: This study identifies a 3-gene signature expressed in pre-treatment tumor biopsies that correlates with a pCR to neoadjuvant CRT in patients with clinical stage II and III rectal cancer. These three genes can be connected by the gene UBC, suggesting that ubiquitination is a molecular mechanism involved in determining response to treatment. Validating this genetic signature in a larger number of patients is proposed.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2013 · Frontiers in Oncology
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    • "In some human diseases, the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway may be disrupted. For example, in colon and renal cell cancers, the ubiquitin ligases are coded by oncogenes [35]. In H. pylori-infected gastric epithelial cells, the proteasome-mediated degradation of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p27kip1 is enhanced [29]. "
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    ABSTRACT: The RNase III enzyme Drosha initiates microRNA (miRNA) biogenesis in the nucleus by cleaving primary miRNA transcripts into shorter precursor molecules that are subsequently exported into the cytoplasm for further processing. While numerous disease states appear to be associated with aberrant expression of Drosha, the molecular mechanisms that regulate its protein levels are largely unknown. Here, we report that ubiquitination and acetylation regulate Drosha protein levels oppositely. Deacetylase inhibitors trichostatin A (TSA) and nicotinamide (NIA) increase Drosha protein level as measured by western blot but have no effects on its mRNA level in HEK293T cells. TSA increases miRNA-143 production in a miRNA sensor assay and in a qPCR analysis in HEK293T cells. Treatment of AGS and HEK293T cells with proteasome inhibitors MG132 or Omuralide increases Drosha protein levels. Furthermore, the N-terminal, but not the C-terminal Drosha can be acetylated by multiple acetyl transferases including p300, CBP and GCN5. Acetylation of Drosha competes with its ubquitination, inhibiting the degradation induced by the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway, thereby increasing Drosha protein levels. Infection of the gastric mucosa AGS cells by H. pylori, the gastric cancer associated carcinogen, leads to the ubiquitination and reduction of Drosha protein levels. H. pylori infection of AGS cells has no significant effects on Drosha mRNA levels. Our findings establish a central mechanism of protein homeostasis as playing a critical role in miRNA biogenesis.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2013 · PLoS ONE
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    • "In the UPS, ubiquitylation regulates a variety of biological processes. Thereby, aberrations of UPS function in all of the above-mentioned processes have been implicated in the pathogenesis of human diseases, ranging from inflammatory neurodegenerative diseases, to various forms of malignancies (Mani and Gelmann, 2005; Reinstein and Ciechanover, 2006). "
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    ABSTRACT: Motivation: Systematic dissection of the ubiquitylation proteome is emerging as an appealing but challenging research topic because of the significant roles ubiquitylation play not only in protein degradation but also in many other cellular functions. High-throughput experimental studies using mass spectrometry have identified many ubiquitylation sites, primarily from eukaryotes. However, the vast majority of ubiquitylation sites remain undiscovered, even in well-studied systems. Because mass spectrometry-based experimental approaches for identifying ubiquitylation events are costly, time-consuming and biased toward abundant proteins and proteotypic peptides, in silico prediction of ubiquitylation sites is a potentially useful alternative strategy for whole proteome annotation. Because of various limitations, current ubiquitylation site prediction tools were not well designed to comprehensively assess proteomes. Results: We present a novel tool known as UbiProber, specifically designed for large-scale predictions of both general and species-specific ubiquitylation sites. We collected proteomics data for ubiquitylation from multiple species from several reliable sources and used them to train prediction models by a comprehensive machine-learning approach that integrates the information from key positions and key amino acid residues. Cross-validation tests reveal that UbiProber achieves some improvement over existing tools in predicting species-specific ubiquitylation sites. Moreover, independent tests show that UbiProber improves the areas under receiver operating characteristic curves by ~15% by using the Combined model. Availability: The UbiProber server is freely available on the web at The software system of UbiProber can be downloaded at the same site. Supplementary information: Supplementary data are available at Bioinformatics online.
    Preview · Article · Apr 2013 · Bioinformatics
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