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1.  USP8 links the PTEN-Akt-AIP4 pathway to the control of FLIPS stability and TRAIL sensitivity in glioblastoma multiforme 
Cancer research  2010;70(12):5046-5053.
The anti-apoptotic protein FLIPS is a key suppressor of tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) -induced apoptosis in human glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) cells. We previously reported that a novel phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN)-Akt-atrophin interacting protein 4 (AIP4) pathway regulates FLIPS ubiquitination and stability, although the means by which PTEN and Akt were linked to AIP4 activity were unclear. We here report that a second regulator of ubiquitin metabolism, the ubiquitin-specific protease (USP) 8, is a downstream target of Akt, and that USP8 links Akt to AIP4 and the regulation of FLIPS stability and TRAIL resistance. In human GBM xenografts, levels of USP8 correlated inversely with pAkt levels, and genetic or pharmacologic manipulation of Akt regulated USP8 levels in an inverse manner. Over-expression of WT USP8, but not catalytically inactive USP8, increased FLIPS ubiquitination, decreased FLIPS half-life, decreased FLIPS steady-state levels, and decreased TRAIL resistance, while siRNA-mediated suppression of USP8 levels had the opposite effects. Because high levels of the USP8 deubiquitinase correlated with high levels of FLIPS ubiquitination, USP8 appeared to control FLIPS ubiquitination through an intermediate target. Consistent with this idea, over-expression of WT USP8 decreased ubiquitination of the FLIPS E3 ubiquitin ligase AIP4, an event previously shown to increase AIP4-FLIPS interaction, while siRNA-mediated suppression of USP8 increased AIP4 ubiquitination. Furthermore, the suppression of FLIPS levels by USP8 over-expression was reversed by introduction of siRNA targeting AIP4. These results show that USP8, a downstream target of Akt, regulates the ability of AIP4 to control FLIPS stability and TRAIL sensitivity.
PMCID: PMC2891229  PMID: 20484045
glioblastoma; TRAIL; ubiquitin; PTEN; USP8
2.  Spartin activates atrophin-1-interacting protein 4 (AIP4) E3 ubiquitin ligase and promotes ubiquitination of adipophilin on lipid droplets 
BMC Biology  2010;8:72.
Spartin protein is involved in degradation of epidermal growth factor receptor and turnover of lipid droplets and a lack of expression of this protein is responsible for hereditary spastic paraplegia type 20 (SPG20). Spartin is a multifunctional protein that associates with many cellular organelles, including lipid droplets. Recent studies showed that spartin interacts with E3 ubiquitin ligases that belong to the neural precursor cell-expressed developmentally downregulated gene (Nedd4) family, including atrophin-1-interacting protein 4 (AIP4/ITCH). However, the biological importance of the spartin-AIP4 interaction remains unknown.
In this study, we show that spartin is not a substrate for AIP4 activity and that spartin's binding to AIP4 significantly increases self-ubiquitination of this E3 ligase, indicating that spartin disrupts the AIP4 autoinhibitory intramolecular interaction. Correspondingly, spartin has a seven times higher binding affinity to the WW region of AIP4 than the binding of the WW region has to the catalytic homologues of the E6-associated protein C-terminus (HECT) domain, as measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. We also show that spartin recruits AIP4 to lipid droplets and promotes ubiquitination of lipid droplet-associated protein, adipophilin, which regulates turnover of lipid droplets.
Our findings demonstrate that spartin acts as an adaptor protein that activates and recruits AIP4 E3 ubiquitin ligase to lipid droplets and by this means regulates the level of ubiquitination of adipophilin and potentially other lipid-associated proteins. We propose that this is one of the mechanisms by which spartin regulates lipid droplet turnover and might contribute to the pathology of SPG20.
PMCID: PMC2887783  PMID: 20504295
3.  A Novel PTEN-Dependent Link to Ubiquitination Controls FLIPS Stability and TRAIL Sensitivity in Glioblastoma Multiforme 
Cancer research  2009;69(20):7911-7916.
Phosphatase and tensin homologue (PTEN) loss and activation of the Akt-mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway increases mRNA translation, increases levels of the antiapoptotic protein FLIPS, and confers resistance to tumor necrosis factor–related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)–induced apoptosis in glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). In PTEN-deficient GBM cells, however, the FLIPS protein also exhibited a longer half-life than in PTEN mutant GBM cells, and this longer half-life correlated with decreased FLIPS polyubiquitination. FLIPS half-life in PTEN mutant GBM cells was reduced by exposure to an Akt inhibitor, but not to rapamycin, suggesting the existence of a previously undescribed, mTOR-independent linkage between PTEN and the ubiquitin-dependent control of protein stability. Total levels of the candidate FLIPS E3 ubiquitin ligase atrophin-interacting protein 4 (AIP4) were comparable in PTEN wild-type (WT) and PTEN mutant GBM cells, although in PTEN-deficient cells, AIP4 was maintained in a stable polyubiquitinated state that was less able to associate with FLIPS or with the FLIPS-containing death inducing signal complex. Small interfering RNA–mediated suppression of AIP4 levels in PTEN WT cells decreased FLIPS ubiquitination, prolonged FLIPS half-life, and increased TRAIL resistance. Similarly, the Akt activation that was previously shown to increase TRAIL resistance did not alter AIP4 levels, but increased AIP4 ubiquitination, increased FLIPS steady-state levels, and suppressed FLIPS ubiquitination. These results define the PTEN-Akt-AIP4 pathway as a key regulator of FLIPS ubiquitination, FLIPS stability, and TRAIL sensitivity and also define a novel link between PTEN and the ubiquitin-mediated control of protein stability.
PMCID: PMC3229302  PMID: 19808964
4.  EGR1, EGR2, and EGR3 activate the expression of their coregulator NAB2 establishing a negative feedback loop in cells of neuroectodermal and epithelial origin 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2010;111(1):207-217.
The inducible zinc finger transcription factors EGR1, EGR2, and EGR3 regulate the expression of numerous genes involved in differentiation, growth, and response to extracellular signals. Their activity is modulated in part through NAB2 which is induced by the same stimuli. In melanoma and carcinoma cells EGR1 activates NAB2 expression. In T lymphocytes EGR2 and EGR3 have been shown to inhibit NAB2 expression. Therefore, we investigated the influence of EGR2 and EGR3 on NAB2 expression in melanoma and carcinoma cells. Here we show that like EGR1, EGR2 and EGR3 induce NAB2 expression in these cells. EGR1 and EGR3 act in concert on the NAB2 promoter and are more potent activators of NAB2 transcription than EGR2. EGR1-, EGR2-, and EGR3-induced NAB2 promoter activity is mediated through similar cis-regulatory elements and the activation by each EGR is repressed by NAB2. Kinetic studies suggest that induction of EGR1 leads to low NAB2 expression while EGR2 and EGR3 are necessary for maximal and sustained expression. As aleady shown for EGR1, reduction of EGR2 or EGR3 expression by siRNAs reduced endogenous NAB2 levels. Depletion of EGR3 also resulted in a reduction of EGR2 levels confirming EGR2 as a target gene of EGR3. Our results suggest that in many cells of neuroectodermal and epithelial origin EGR1, EGR2, and EGR3 activate NAB2 transcription which is in turn is repressed by NAB2, thus establishing a negative feedback loop. This points to a complex relationship between the EGR factors and NAB2 expression likely depending on the cellular context.
PMCID: PMC2930072  PMID: 20506119
NAB2; early growth response; EGR; transcription factor; negative feedback loop; autoregulation; promoter
5.  Opposing regulation of T cell function by Egr-1/NAB2 and Egr-2/Egr-3 
European journal of immunology  2008;38(2):528-536.
TCR-induced NF-AT activation leads to the up-regulation of multiple genes involved in T cell anergy. Since NF-AT is also involved in T cell activation, we have endeavored to dissect TCR-induced activating and inhibitory genetic programs. This approach revealed roles for the early growth response (Egr) family of transcription factors and the Egr coactivator/corepressor NGFI-A-binding protein (NAB)2 in regulating T cell function. TCR-induced Egr-1 and NAB2 enhance T cell function, while Egr-2 and Egr-3 inhibit T cell function. In this report, we demonstrate that Egr-2 and Egr-3 are induced by NF-AT in the absence of AP-1, while Egr-1 and NAB2 both require AP-1-mediated transcription. Our data suggest that Egr-3 is upstream of Egr-2, and that mechanistically Egr-2 and Egr-3 suppress Egr-1 and NAB2 expression. Functionally, T cells from Egr-2 and Egr-3 null mice are hyperresponsive while T cells from Egr-3 transgenic, overexpressing mice are hyporesponsive. Furthermore, an in vivo model of autoimmune pneumonitis reveals that T cells from Egr-3 null mice hasten death while Egr-3-overexpressing T cells cause less disease. Overall, our data suggest that just as the Egr/NAB network of genes control cell fate in other systems, TCR-induced Egr-1, 2, 3 and NAB2 control the fate of antigen recognition in T cells.
PMCID: PMC3598016  PMID: 18203138
Activation; EGR; NAB2; T cells; Tolerance
6.  Latent Membrane Protein 2A of Epstein-Barr Virus Binds WW Domain E3 Protein-Ubiquitin Ligases That Ubiquitinate B-Cell Tyrosine Kinases 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(22):8526-8535.
The latent membrane protein (LMP) 2A of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is implicated in the maintenance of viral latency and appears to function in part by inhibiting B-cell receptor (BCR) signaling. The N-terminal cytoplasmic region of LMP2A has multiple tyrosine residues that upon phosphorylation bind the SH2 domains of the Syk tyrosine kinase and the Src family kinase Lyn. The LMP2A N-terminal region also has two conserved PPPPY motifs. Here we show that the PPPPY motifs of LMP2A bind multiple WW domains of E3 protein-ubiquitin ligases of the Nedd4 family, including AIP4 and KIAA0439, and demonstrate that AIP4 and KIAA0439 form physiological complexes with LMP2A in EBV-positive B cells. In addition to a C2 domain and four WW domains, these proteins have a C-terminal Hect catalytic domain implicated in the ubiquitination of target proteins. LMP2A enhances Lyn and Syk ubiquitination in vivo in a fashion that depends on the activity of Nedd4 family members and correlates with destabilization of the Lyn tyrosine kinase. These results suggest that LMP2A serves as a molecular scaffold to recruit both B-cell tyrosine kinases and C2/WW/Hect domain E3 protein-ubiquitin ligases. This may promote Lyn and Syk ubiquitination in a fashion that contributes to a block in B-cell signaling. LMP2A may potentiate a normal mechanism by which Nedd4 family E3 enzymes regulate B-cell signaling.
PMCID: PMC102158  PMID: 11046148
7.  The transcription factors Egr1 and Egr2 have opposing influences on adipocyte differentiation 
Cell death and differentiation  2009;16(5):782-789.
The zinc finger-containing transcription factors Egr1 (Krox24) and Egr2 (Krox20) have been implicated in the proliferation and differentiation of many cell types. Egr2 has previously been shown to play a positive role in adipocyte differentiation but the function of Egr1 in this context is unknown. We compared the roles of Egr1 and Egr2 in the differentiation of murine 3T3-L1 adipocytes. Egr1 protein was rapidly induced after addition of differentiation cocktail while Egr2 protein initially remained low before increasing on days 1 and 2, concomitant with the disappearance of Egr1. In marked contrast to the effects of Egr2, differentiation was inhibited by ectopic expression of Egr1 and potentiated by knockdown of Egr1. The pro-adipogenic effects of Egr1 knockdown were particularly notable when IBMX was omitted from the differentiation medium. However, knockdown of Egr1 did not affect C/EBPβ protein expression or phosphorylation of CREB Ser133. Further, Egr1 did not directly affect the activity of promoters for the master adipogenic transcription factors, C/EBPα or PPARγ2, as assessed in luciferase reporter assays. These data indicate that Egr1 and Egr2 exert opposing influences on adipocyte differentiation and that the careful regulation of both is required for maintaining appropriate levels of adipogenesis. Further, the pro-differentiation effects of IBMX involve suppression of the inhibitory influence of Egr1.
PMCID: PMC2670277  PMID: 19229250
adipocyte; differentiation; transcription; IBMX; C/EBP
8.  Mechanism of ubiquitin ligation and lysine prioritization by a HECT E3 
eLife  2013;2:e00828.
Ubiquitination by HECT E3 enzymes regulates myriad processes, including tumor suppression, transcription, protein trafficking, and degradation. HECT E3s use a two-step mechanism to ligate ubiquitin to target proteins. The first step is guided by interactions between the catalytic HECT domain and the E2∼ubiquitin intermediate, which promote formation of a transient, thioester-bonded HECT∼ubiquitin intermediate. Here we report that the second step of ligation is mediated by a distinct catalytic architecture established by both the HECT E3 and its covalently linked ubiquitin. The structure of a chemically trapped proxy for an E3∼ubiquitin-substrate intermediate reveals three-way interactions between ubiquitin and the bilobal HECT domain orienting the E3∼ubiquitin thioester bond for ligation, and restricting the location of the substrate-binding domain to prioritize target lysines for ubiquitination. The data allow visualization of an E2-to-E3-to-substrate ubiquitin transfer cascade, and show how HECT-specific ubiquitin interactions driving multiple reactions are repurposed by a major E3 conformational change to promote ligation.
eLife digest
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be covalently linked to other, ‘target’, proteins in a cell to influence their behavior. Ubiquitin can be linked to its targets either as single copies or as polyubiquitin chains in which several ubiquitin molecules are bound end-on-end to each other, with one end of the chain attached to the target protein. A multi-step cascade involving enzymes known as E1, E2, and E3 adds ubiquitin to its targets. These enzymes function in a manner like runners in a relay, with ubiquitin a baton that is passed from E1 to E2 to E3 to the target.
The E3 enzyme is a ligase that catalyzes the formation of a new chemical bond between a ubiquitin and its target. There are approximately 600 different E3 enzymes in human cells that regulate a wide variety of target proteins. A major class of E3 enzymes, called HECT E3s, attaches ubiquitin to its targets in a unique two-step mechanism: the E2 enzymes covalently link a ubiquitin to a HECT E3 to form a complex that subsequently transfers the ubiquitin to its target protein. The ubiquitin is typically added to a particular amino acid, lysine, on the target protein, but the details of how HECT E3s execute this transfer are not well understood. To address this issue, Kamadurai et al. investigate how Rsp5, a HECT E3 ligase in yeast, attaches ubiquitin to a target protein called Sna3.
All HECT E3s have a domain—the HECT domain—that catalyzes the transfer of ubiquitin to its target protein. This domain consists of two sub-structures: the C-lobe, which can receive ubiquitin from E2 and then itself become linked to ubiquitin, and the N-lobe. These lobes were previously thought to adopt various orientations relative to each other to deliver ubiquitin to sites on different target proteins (including to multiple lysines on a single target protein). Unexpectedly, Kamadurai et al. find that in order to transfer the ubiquitin to Sna3, Rsp5 adopts a discrete HECT domain architecture that creates an active site in which parts of the C-lobe and the N-lobe, which are normally separated, are brought together with a ubiquitin molecule. This architecture also provides a mechanism that dictates which substrate lysines can be ubiquitinated based on how accessible they are to this active site.
The same regions of Rsp5 transfer ubiquitin to targets other than Sna3, suggesting that a uniform mechanism—which Kamadurai et al. show is conserved in two related human HECT E3 ligases—might transfer ubiquitin to all its targets. These studies therefore represent a significant step toward understanding how a major class of E3 enzymes modulates the functions of their targets.
PMCID: PMC3738095  PMID: 23936628
ubiquitin; HECT; E3 ligase; E2 conjugating enzyme; NEDD4; Rsp5; S. cerevisiae
9.  Egr1 regulates the coordinated expression of numerous EGF receptor target genes as identified by ChIP-on-chip 
Genome Biology  2008;9(11):R166.
UV stimulation of prostate cells causes an apoptotic response that is dependent on the zinc finger transcription factor Egr1; downstream targets of Egr1 in this response were identified.
UV irradiation activates the epidermal growth factor receptor, induces Egr1 expression and promotes apoptosis in a variety of cell types. We examined the hypothesis that Egr1 regulates genes that mediate this process by use of a chip-on-chip protocol in human tumorigenic prostate M12 cells.
UV irradiation led to significant binding of 288 gene promoters by Egr1. A major functional subgroup consisted of apoptosis related genes. The largest subgroup of 24 genes belongs to the epidermal growth factor receptor-signal transduction pathway. Egr1 promoter binding had a significant impact on gene expression of target genes. Conventional chromatin immunoprecipitation and quantitative real time PCR were used to validate promoter binding and expression changes. Small interfering RNA experiments were used to demonstrate the specific role of Egr1 in gene regulation. UV stimulation promotes growth arrest and apoptosis of M12 cells and our data clearly show that a downstream target of the epidermal growth factor receptor, namely Egr1, mediates this apoptotic response. Our study also identified numerous previously unknown targets of Egr1. These include FasL, MAX and RRAS2, which may play a role in the apoptotic response/growth arrest.
Our results indicate that M12 cells undergo Egr1-dependent apoptotic response upon UV stimulation and led to the identification of downstream targets of Egr1, which mediate epidermal growth factor receptor function.
PMCID: PMC2614498  PMID: 19032775
10.  The E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Atrophin Interacting Protein 4 Binds Directly To The Chemokine Receptor CXCR4 Via a Novel WW Domain-mediated Interaction 
Molecular Biology of the Cell  2009;20(5):1324-1339.
The E3 ubiquitin ligase atrophin interacting protein 4 (AIP4) mediates ubiquitination and down-regulation of the chemokine receptor CXCR4. AIP4 belongs to the Nedd4-like homologous to E6-AP carboxy terminus domain family of E3 ubiquitin ligases, which typically bind proline-rich motifs within target proteins via the WW domains. The intracellular domains of CXCR4 lack canonical WW domain binding motifs; thus, whether AIP4 is targeted to CXCR4 directly or indirectly via an adaptor protein remains unknown. Here, we show that AIP4 can interact directly with CXCR4 via a novel noncanonical WW domain-mediated interaction involving serine residues 324 and 325 within the carboxy-terminal tail of CXCR4. These serine residues are critical for mediating agonist-promoted binding of AIP4 and subsequent ubiquitination and degradation of CXCR4. These residues are phosphorylated upon agonist activation and phosphomimetic mutants show enhanced binding to AIP4, suggesting a mechanism whereby phosphorylation mediates the interaction between CXCR4 and AIP4. Our data reveal a novel noncanonical WW domain-mediated interaction involving phosphorylated serine residues in the absence of any proline residues and suggest a novel mechanism whereby an E3 ubiquitin ligase is targeted directly to an activated G protein-coupled receptor.
PMCID: PMC2649280  PMID: 19116316
11.  AIP4/Itch Regulates Notch Receptor Degradation in the Absence of Ligand 
PLoS ONE  2008;3(7):e2735.
The regulation of Notch signaling heavily relies on ubiquitination events. Drosophila Su(dx), a member of the HECT family of ubiquitin-ligases, has been described as a negative regulator of Notch signaling, acting on the post-endocytic sorting of Notch. The mammalian ortholog of Su(dx), Itch/AIP4, has been shown to have multiple substrates, including Notch, but the precise events regulated by Itch/AIP4 in the Notch pathway have not been identified yet.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Using Itch-/- fibroblasts expressing the Notch1 receptor, we show that Itch is not necessary for Notch activation, but rather for controlling the degradation of Notch in the absence of ligand. Itch is indeed required after the early steps of Notch endocytosis to target it to the lysosomes where it is degraded. Furthermore Itch/AIP4 catalyzes Notch polyubiquitination through unusual K29-linked chains. We also demonstrate that although Notch is associated with Itch/AIP4 in cells, their interaction is not detectable in vitro and thus requires either a post-translational modification, or a bridging factor that remains to be identified.
Taken together our results identify a specific step of Notch regulation in the absence of any activation and underline differences between mammalian and Drosophila Notch pathways.
PMCID: PMC2444042  PMID: 18628966
12.  HECT E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Itch Functions as a Novel Negative Regulator of Gli-Similar 3 (Glis3) Transcriptional Activity 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(7):e0131303.
The transcription factor Gli-similar 3 (Glis3) plays a critical role in the generation of pancreatic ß cells and the regulation insulin gene transcription and has been implicated in the development of several pathologies, including type 1 and 2 diabetes and polycystic kidney disease. However, little is known about the proteins and posttranslational modifications that regulate or mediate Glis3 transcriptional activity. In this study, we identify by mass-spectrometry and yeast 2-hybrid analyses several proteins that interact with the N-terminal region of Glis3. These include the WW-domain-containing HECT E3 ubiquitin ligases, Itch, Smurf2, and Nedd4. The interaction between Glis3 and the HECT E3 ubiquitin ligases was verified by co-immunoprecipitation assays and mutation analysis. All three proteins interact through their WW-domains with a PPxY motif located in the Glis3 N-terminus. However, only Itch significantly contributed to Glis3 polyubiquitination and reduced Glis3 stability by enhancing its proteasomal degradation. Itch-mediated degradation of Glis3 required the PPxY motif-dependent interaction between Glis3 and the WW-domains of Itch as well as the presence of the Glis3 zinc finger domains. Transcription analyses demonstrated that Itch dramatically inhibited Glis3-mediated transactivation and endogenous Ins2 expression by increasing Glis3 protein turnover. Taken together, our study identifies Itch as a critical negative regulator of Glis3-mediated transcriptional activity. This regulation provides a novel mechanism to modulate Glis3-driven gene expression and suggests that it may play a role in a number of physiological processes controlled by Glis3, such as insulin transcription, as well as in Glis3-associated diseases.
PMCID: PMC4493090  PMID: 26147758
13.  The E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch regulates tumor suppressor protein RASSF5/NORE1 stability in an acetylation-dependent manner 
Cell Death & Disease  2013;4(3):e565-.
Ras association (RalGDS/AF-6) domain family member RASSF5 is a non-enzymatic RAS effector super family protein, known to be involved in cell growth regulation. Expression of RASSF5 is found to be extinguished by promoter hypermethylation in different human cancers, and its ectopic expression suppresses cell proliferation and tumorigenicity. Interestingly, this role in tumorigenesis has been confounded by the fact that regulation at molecular level remains unclear and many transformed cells actually display elevated RASSF5 expression. Here, we demonstrate that E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch is a unique binding partner of RASSF5. Itch can interact with PPxY motif in RASSF5 both in vivo and in vitro through its WW domains. Importantly, the overexpression of Itch induces RASSF5 degradation by poly-ubiquitination via 26S proteasome pathway. In addition, our results indicate that the elevated levels of RASSF5 found in tumor cells due to acetylation, which restricts its binding to Itch and results in a more stable inert protein. Inhibition of RASSF5 acetylation permits its interaction with Itch and provokes proteasomal degradation. These data suggest that apart from promoter methylation, hyperacetylation could also be downregulating RASSF5 function in different human cancer. Finally, results from functional assays suggest that the overexpression of wild type, not the ligase activity defective Itch negatively regulate RASSF5-mediated G1 phase transition of cell cycle as well as apoptosis, suggesting that Itch alone is sufficient to alter RASSF5 function. Collectively, the present investigation identifies a HECT class E3 ubiquitin ligase Itch as a unique negative regulator of RASSF5, and suggests the possibility that acetylation as a potential therapeutic target for human cancer.
PMCID: PMC3615736  PMID: 23538446
RASSF5; Itch; ubiquitination; acetylation; cell cycle
14.  Composite fatty acid ether amides suppress growth of liver cancer cells in vitro and in an in vivo allograft mouse model 
Cellular oncology (Dordrecht)  2013;36(3):247-257.
The heterogeneity of liver cancer, in particular hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), portrays the requirement of multiple targets for both its treatment and prevention. Multi-faceted agents, minimally or non-toxic for normal hepatocytes, are required to address the molecular diversity of HCC, including the resistance of putative liver cancer stem cells to chemotherapy.
We designed and synthesized two fatty acid ethers of isopropylamino propanol, C16:0-AIP-1 and C18:1-AIP-2 (jointly named AIPs), and evaluated their anti-proliferative effects on the human HCC cell line Huh7 and the murine hepatoma cell line BNL 1MEA.7R.1, both in vitro and in an in vivo allograft mouse model.
We found that AIP-1 and AIP-2 inhibited proliferation and caused cell death in both Huh7 and BNL 1MEA.7R.1 cells. Importantly, AIP-1 and AIP-2 were found to block the activation of putative liver cancer stem cells as manifested by suppression of clonal ‘carcinosphere’ development in growth factor-free and anchorage-free medium. The AIPs exhibited a relatively low toxicity against normal human or rat hepatocytes in primary cultures. In addition, we found that the AIPs utilized multifaceted pathways that mediate both autophagy and apoptosis in HCC, including the inhibition of AKTs and CAMK-1. In immune-competent mice, the AIPs significantly reduced BNL 1MEA.7R.1 cell-driven tumor allograft development, with a higher efficiency than sorafenib. A combination of AIP-1 + AIP-2 was most effective in reducing the tumor allograft incidence.
AIPs represent a novel class of simple fatty acid derivatives that are effective against liver tumors via diverse pathways. They show a low toxicity towards normal hepatocytes. The addition of AIPs may represent a new avenue towards the management of chronic liver injury and, ultimately, the prevention and treatment of HCC.
PMCID: PMC3766851  PMID: 23619943
Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC); Alkyl (alkenyl)oxy-isopropylamino propanol (AIP); beta-spectrin; Autophagy; Apoptosis; AKT; Tumor allograft
15.  SARS-CoV ORF-9b suppresses innate immunity by targeting mitochondria and the MAVS/TRAF3/TRAF6 signalosome 
Coronaviruses (CoV) have recently emerged as potentially serious pathogens that can cause significant human morbidity and death. The severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV was identified as the etiologic agent of the 2002-3 international SARS outbreak. Yet how SARS evades innate immune responses to cause human disease remains poorly understood. Here, we show that a protein encoded by SARS-CoV designated as open reading frame-9b (ORF-9b) localizes to mitochondria and causes mitochondrial elongation by triggering ubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of dynamin-like protein (DRP1), a host protein involved in mitochondrial fission. Also, acting on mitochondria ORF-9b targets the mitochondrial-associated adaptor molecule MAVS signalosome by usurping poly(C)-binding protein 2 (PCBP2) and the HECT domain E3 ligase AIP4 to trigger the degradation of MAVS, TRAF3, and TRAF6. This severely limits host cell interferon responses. Reducing either PCBP2 or AIP4 expression substantially reversed the ORF-9b mediated reduction of MAVS and the suppression of anti-viral transcriptional responses. Finally, transient ORF-9b expression led to a strong induction of autophagy in cells. The induction of autophagy depended upon ATG5, a critical autophagy regulator, but the inhibition of MAVS signaling did not. These results indicate that SARS-CoV ORF-9b manipulates host cell mitochondria and mitochondrial function to help evade host innate immunity. This study has uncovered an important clue to the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV infection and illustrates the havoc that a small open reading frame can cause in cells.
PMCID: PMC4179872  PMID: 25135833
mitochondria; innate immunity; SARS; coronavirus; interferon; ubiquitin
16.  HECT E3 Ubiquitin Ligase Nedd4-1 Ubiquitinates ACK and Regulates Epidermal Growth Factor (EGF)-Induced Degradation of EGF Receptor and ACK ▿  
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2010;30(6):1541-1554.
ACK (activated Cdc42-associated tyrosine kinase) (also Tnk2) is an ubiquitin-binding protein and plays an important role in ligand-induced and ubiquitination-mediated degradation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR). Here we report that ACK is ubiquitinated by HECT E3 ubiquitin ligase Nedd4-1 and degraded along with EGFR in response to EGF stimulation. ACK interacts with Nedd4-1 through a conserved PPXY WW-binding motif. The WW3 domain in Nedd4-1 is critical for binding to ACK. Although ACK binds to both Nedd4-1 and Nedd4-2 (also Nedd4L), Nedd4-1 is the E3 ubiquitin ligase for ubiquitination of ACK in cells. Interestingly, deletion of the sterile alpha motif (SAM) domain at the N terminus dramatically reduced the ubiquitination of ACK by Nedd4-1, while deletion of the Uba domain dramatically enhanced the ubiquitination. Use of proteasomal and lysosomal inhibitors demonstrated that EGF-induced ACK degradation is processed by lysosomes, not proteasomes. RNA interference (RNAi) knockdown of Nedd4-1, not Nedd4-2, inhibited degradation of both EGFR and ACK, and overexpression of ACK mutants that are deficient in either binding to or ubiquitination by Nedd4-1 blocked EGF-induced degradation of EGFR. Our findings suggest an essential role of Nedd4-1 in regulation of EGFR degradation through interaction with and ubiquitination of ACK.
PMCID: PMC2832494  PMID: 20086093
17.  AIP1 mediates TNF-α–induced ASK1 activation by facilitating dissociation of ASK1 from its inhibitor 14-3-3 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;111(12):1933-1943.
TNF-α activates ASK1 in part by dissociating 14-3-3 from apoptosis signal–regulating kinase 1 (ASK1). In the present study, we identified a novel Ras GTPase-activating protein (Ras-GAP) as an ASK1-interacting protein (AIP1). AIP1 binds to the C-terminal domain of ASK1 via a lysine-rich cluster within the N-terminal C2 domain. AIP1 exists in a closed form through an intramolecular interaction between the N-terminus and the C-terminus, and TNF-α induces unfolding of AIP1 leading to association of AIP1 with ASK1. Thus, the N-terminus of AIP1 containing the C2 and GAP domains constitutively binds to ASK1 and facilitates the release of 14-3-3 from ASK1. In contrast to 14-3-3, AIP1 binds preferentially to dephosphorylated ASK1. Recruited AIP1 enhances ASK1-induced JNK activation, and the ASK1 binding and the GAP activity of AIP1 are critical for AIP1-enhanced ASK1 activation. Furthermore, TNF-induced ASK1/JNK activation is significantly blunted in cells where AIP1 is knocked down by RNA interference. These data suggest that AIP1 mediates TNF-α–induced ASK1 activation by facilitating dissociation of inhibitor 14-3-3 from ASK1, a novel mechanism by which TNF-α activates ASK1.
PMCID: PMC161425  PMID: 12813029
18.  Cbl-c Ubiquitin Ligase Activity Is Increased via the Interaction of Its RING Finger Domain with a LIM Domain of the Paxillin Homolog, Hic 5 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e49428.
Cbl proteins (Cbl, Cbl-b and Cbl-c) are ubiquitin ligases that are critical regulators of tyrosine kinase signaling. In this study we identify a new Cbl-c interacting protein, Hydrogen peroxide Induced Construct 5 (Hic-5). The two proteins interact through a novel interaction mediated by the RING finger of Cbl-c and the LIM2 domain of Hic-5. Further, this interaction is mediated and dependent on specific zinc coordinating complexes within the RING finger and LIM domain. Binding of Hic-5 to Cbl-c leads to an increase in the ubiquitin ligase activity of Cbl-c once Cbl-c has been activated by Src phosphorylation or through an activating phosphomimetic mutation. In addition, co-transfection of Hic-5 with Cbl-c leads to an increase in Cbl-c mediated ubiquitination of the EGFR. These data suggest that Hic-5 enhances Cbl-c ubiquitin ligase activity once Cbl-c has been phosphorylated and activated. Interactions between heterologous RING fingers have been shown to activate E3s. This is the first demonstration of enhancement of ubiquitin ligase activity of a RING finger ubiquitin ligase by the direct interaction of a LIM zinc coordinating domain.
PMCID: PMC3492284  PMID: 23145173
19.  AIP1 suppresses atherosclerosis by limiting hyperlipidemia-induced inflammation and vascular endothelial dysfunction 
Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase 1 (ASK1)–interacting protein-1 (AIP1) is a signaling adaptor molecule implicated in stress and apoptotic signaling induced by proinflammatory mediators. However, its function in atherosclerosis has not been established. In the present study, we use AIP1-null (AIP1−/−) mice to examine its effect on atherosclerotic lesions in an ApoE-null (ApoE−/−) mouse model of atherosclerosis.
ApoE−/− control mice developed atherosclerosis in the aortic roots and descending aortas upon Western-type diet for 10 weeks, while the atherosclerotic lesions are significantly augmented in ApoE−/−AIP1−/− double knockout (DKO) mice. DKO mice show increases in plasma inflammatory cytokines with no significant alterations in body weight, total cholesterol levels or lipoprotein profiles. Aortas in DKO mice show increased inflammation and endothelial cell (EC) dysfunction with NF-κB activity, correlating with increased accumulation of macrophages in the lesion area. Importantly, macrophages from DKO donors are not sufficient to augment inflammatory responses and atherogenesis when transferred to ApoE-KO recipients. Mechanistic studies suggest that AIP1 is highly expressed in aortic EC but not in macrophages, and AIP1 deletion in EC significantly enhance oxidized LDL-induced NF-κB signaling, gene expression of inflammatory molecules and monocyte adhesion, suggesting that vascular EC are responsible for the increased inflammatory responses observed in DKO mice.
Our data demonstrate that loss of AIP1 in aortic EC primarily contributes to the exacerbated lesion expansion in the ApoE−/−AIP1−/− mice, revealing an important role of AIP1 in limiting inflammation, EC dysfunction and atherosclerosis.
PMCID: PMC3637885  PMID: 23413429
Atherosclerosis; inflammation; endothelial cell; lipids and lipoproteins; macrophage; AIP1
20.  Regulation of Aryl Hydrocarbon Receptor Interacting Protein (AIP) Protein Expression by MiR-34a in Sporadic Somatotropinomas 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(2):e0117107.
Patients with germline AIP mutations or low AIP protein expression have large, invasive somatotroph adenomas and poor response to somatostatin analogues (SSA).
To study the mechanism of low AIP protein expression 31 sporadic somatotropinomas with low (n = 13) or high (n = 18) AIP protein expression were analyzed for expression of AIP messenger RNA (mRNA) and 11 microRNAs (miRNAs) predicted to bind the 3’UTR of AIP. Luciferase reporter assays of wild-type and deletion constructs of AIP-3’UTR were used to study the effect of the selected miRNAs in GH3 cells. Endogenous AIP protein and mRNA levels were measured after miRNA over- and underexpression in HEK293 and GH3 cells.
No significant difference was observed in AIP mRNA expression between tumors with low or high AIP protein expression suggesting post-transcriptional regulation. miR-34a was highly expressed in low AIP protein samples compared high AIP protein adenomas and miR-34a levels were inversely correlated with response to SSA therapy. miR-34a inhibited the luciferase-AIP-3’UTR construct, suggesting that miR-34a binds to AIP-3’UTR. Deletion mutants of the 3 different predicted binding sites in AIP-3’UTR identified the c.*6–30 site to be involved in miR-34a’s activity. miR-34a overexpression in HEK293 and GH3 cells resulted in inhibition of endogenous AIP protein expression.
Low AIP protein expression is associated with high miR-34a expression. miR-34a can down-regulate AIP-protein but not RNA expression in vitro. miR-34a is a negative regulator of AIP-protein expression and could be responsible for the low AIP expression observed in somatotropinomas with an invasive phenotype and resistance to SSA.
PMCID: PMC4319742  PMID: 25658813
21.  Coordinated Sumoylation and Ubiquitination Modulate EGF Induced EGR1 Expression and Stability 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25676.
Human early growth response-1 (EGR1) is a member of the zing-finger family of transcription factors induced by a range of molecular and environmental stimuli including epidermal growth factor (EGF). In a recently published paper we demonstrated that integrin/EGFR cross-talk was required for Egr1 expression through activation of the Erk1/2 and PI3K/Akt/Forkhead pathways. EGR1 activity and stability can be influenced by many different post-translational modifications such as acetylation, phosphorylation, ubiquitination and the recently discovered sumoylation. The aim of this work was to assess the influence of sumoylation on EGF induced Egr1 expression and/or stability.
We modulated the expression of proteins involved in the sumoylation process in ECV304 cells by transient transfection and evaluated Egr1 expression in response to EGF treatment at mRNA and protein levels.
We demonstrated that in ECV304 cells Egr1 was transiently induced upon EGF treatment and a fraction of the endogenous protein was sumoylated. Moreover, SUMO-1/Ubc9 over-expression stabilized EGF induced ERK1/2 phosphorylation and increased Egr1 gene transcription. Conversely, in SUMO-1/Ubc9 transfected cells, EGR1 protein levels were strongly reduced. Data obtained from protein expression and ubiquitination analysis, in the presence of the proteasome inhibitor MG132, suggested that upon EGF stimuli EGR1 sumoylation enhanced its turnover, increasing ubiquitination and proteasome mediated degradation.
Here we demonstrate that SUMO-1 modification improving EGR1 ubiquitination is involved in the modulation of its stability upon EGF mediated induction.
PMCID: PMC3187784  PMID: 21998680
22.  Cyclosporin A-Sensitive Transcription Factor Egr-3 Regulates Fas Ligand Expression 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  1998;18(7):3744-3751.
Activation-induced transcriptional upregulation of the ligand for Fas (FasL) and the resulting apoptosis of Fas-bearing cells constitute essential steps in a host of normal and pathological processes. Here we describe an activation-inducible cis-acting regulatory element in the fasL promoter that is required for gene expression. Oligonucleotide competition and antibody supershift analyses identified two activation-induced DNA-binding species: Egr-1 (NGFI-A, krox-24, zif268, TIS-8), a transcription factor that has been implicated in growth, differentiation, and apoptosis; and Egr-3 (PILOT), a transcription factor of no previously known function. Activation-induced expression of Egr-3, like that of FasL, was inhibited by cyclosporin A, whereas expression of Egr-1 was unaffected. Transient expression of Egr-3 alone increased fasL promoter activity in a cyclosporin A-insensitive manner, whereas expression of Egr-1 had little effect. Moreover, endogenous fasL mRNA was induced in nonlymphoid cells by forced expression of Egr-3 in the absence of any other stimulus. These studies identify a critical Egr family-binding site in the fasL promoter and demonstrate that activation-induced Egr-3, but not Egr-1, directly upregulates fasL transcription in response to activating stimuli.
PMCID: PMC108957  PMID: 9632757
23.  NOPO modulates Egr-induced JNK-independent cell death in Drosophila 
Cell Research  2011;22(2):425-431.
Tumor necrosis factor (TNF) family ligands play essential roles in regulating a variety of cellular processes including proliferation, differentiation and survival. Expression of Drosophila TNF ortholog Eiger (Egr) induces JNK-dependent cell death, while the roles of caspases in this process remain elusive. To further delineate the Egr-triggered cell death pathway, we performed a genetic screen to identify dominant modifiers of the Egr-induced cell death phenotype. Here we report that Egr elicits a caspase-mediated cell death pathway independent of JNK signaling. Furthermore, we show NOPO, the Drosophila ortholog of TRIP (TRAF interacting protein) encoding an E3 ubiquitin ligase, modulates Egr-induced Caspase-mediated cell death through transcriptional activation of pro-apoptotic genes reaper and hid. Finally, we found Bendless and dUEV1a, an ubiquitin-conjugating E2 enzyme complex, regulates NOPO-triggered cell death. Our results indicate that the Ben-dUEV1a complex constitutes a molecular switch that bifurcates the Egr-induced cell death signaling into two pathways mediated by JNK and caspases respectively.
PMCID: PMC3271591  PMID: 21844890
cTNF; JNK; NOPO; caspase; cell death
24.  Adenovirus Ad-p53AIP1-mediated gene therapy and its regulation of p53-MDM2 interactions 
We generated replication-defective adenovirus Ad-p53AIP1 and studied its anti-tumor efficacy both in vitro and in vivo. We demonstrated that Ad-p53AIP1 infection elicited high levels of p53AIP1 expression in cancer cells. We also found that Ad-p53AIP1 expression induced marked apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in HepG2 cells. Moreover, Ad-p53AIP1 infection significantly inhibited the tumorigenesis of 4T1 mouse mammary cancer cells in vivo. In particular, we discovered that p53AIP1 overexpression up-regulated the protein levels of p53 in HepG2 cells, which was accompanied by down-regulation of MDM2 mRNA and protein, suggesting an interaction between MDM2 and p53 in p53AIP1-induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Our data demonstrated the feasibility of Ad-p53AIP1-mediated cancer gene therapy. p53AIP1-induced up-regulation of p53 protein through MDM2 suggests that p53AIP1 gene therapy may be more advantageous in tumors expressing high levels of oncoprotein MDM2 or having a mutation in MDM2 inhibitor p16INK4.
PMCID: PMC3445915  PMID: 22993550
p53AIP1; p53; MDM2; cell cycle; apoptosis; gene therapy
25.  AIP1 functions as an endogenous inhibitor of VEGFR2-mediated signaling and inflammatory angiogenesis in mice 
The Journal of Clinical Investigation  2008;118(12):3904-3916.
ASK1-interacting protein-1 (AIP1), a recently identified member of the Ras GTPase-activating protein family, is highly expressed in vascular ECs and regulates EC apoptosis in vitro. However, its function in vivo has not been established. To study this, we generated AIP1-deficient mice (KO mice). Although these mice showed no obvious defects in vascular development, they exhibited dramatically enhanced angiogenesis in 2 models of inflammatory angiogenesis. In one of these models, the enhanced angiogenesis observed in the KO mice was associated with increased VEGF-VEGFR2 signaling. Consistent with this, VEGF-induced ear, cornea, and retina neovascularization were greatly augmented in KO mice and the enhanced retinal angiogenesis was markedly diminished by overexpression of AIP1. In vitro, VEGF-induced EC migration was inhibited by AIP1 overexpression, whereas it was augmented by both AIP1 knockout and knockdown, with the enhanced EC migration caused by AIP1 knockdown being associated with increased VEGFR2 signaling. We present mechanistic data that suggest AIP1 is recruited to the VEGFR2-PI3K complex, binding to both VEGFR2 and PI3K p85, at a late phase of the VEGF response, and that this leads to inhibition of VEGFR2 signaling. Taken together, our data demonstrate that AIP1 functions as an endogenous inhibitor in VEGFR2-mediated adaptive angiogenesis in mice.
PMCID: PMC2575835  PMID: 19033661

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