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American Association for Cancer Research, Clinical Cancer Research, 6(26), p. 1460-1473, 2020

DOI: 10.1158/1078-0432.ccr-19-1373



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Deubiquitinase Activity Profiling Identifies UCHL1 as a Candidate Oncoprotein That Promotes TGFβ-Induced Breast Cancer Metastasis

This paper is made freely available by the publisher.
This paper is made freely available by the publisher.

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Abstract Purpose: Therapies directed to specific molecular targets are still unmet for patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Deubiquitinases (DUB) are emerging drug targets. The identification of highly active DUBs in TNBC may lead to novel therapies. Experimental Design: Using DUB activity probes, we profiled global DUB activities in 52 breast cancer cell lines and 52 patients' tumor tissues. To validate our findings in vivo, we employed both zebrafish and murine breast cancer xenograft models. Cellular and molecular mechanisms were elucidated using in vivo and in vitro biochemical methods. A specific inhibitor was synthesized, and its biochemical and biological functions were assessed in a range of assays. Finally, we used patient sera samples to investigate clinical correlations. Results: Two DUB activity profiling approaches identified UCHL1 as being highly active in TNBC cell lines and aggressive tumors. Functionally, UCHL1 promoted metastasis in zebrafish and murine breast cancer xenograft models. Mechanistically, UCHL1 facilitates TGFβ signaling–induced metastasis by protecting TGFβ type I receptor and SMAD2 from ubiquitination. We found that these responses are potently suppressed by the specific UCHL1 inhibitor, 6RK73. Furthermore, UCHL1 levels were significantly increased in sera of patients with TNBC, and highly enriched in sera exosomes as well as TNBC cell–conditioned media. UCHL1-enriched exosomes stimulated breast cancer migration and extravasation, suggesting that UCHL1 may act in a paracrine manner to promote tumor progression. Conclusions: Our DUB activity profiling identified UCHL1 as a candidate oncoprotein that promotes TGFβ-induced breast cancer metastasis and may provide a potential target for TNBC treatment.