Targeting the E3 Ubiquitin Ligase PJA1 Enhances Tumor-Suppressing TGFβ Signaling
Chen J, Mitra A, Li S, Song S, Nguyen BN, Chen JS, Shin JH, Gough NR, Lin P, Obias V, He AR, Yao Z, Malta TM, Noushmehr H, Latham PS, Su X, Rashid A, Mishra B, Wu RC, and Mishra L. Targeting the E3 Ubiquitin Ligase PJA1 Enhances Tumor-Suppressing TGFβ Signaling. Cancer Res 2020; 80(9):1819-1832.
RING-finger E3 ligases are instrumental in the regulation of inflammatory cascades, apoptosis, and cancer. However, their roles are relatively unknown in TGFβ/SMAD signaling. SMAD3 and its adaptors, such as β2SP, are important mediators of TGFβ signaling and regulate gene expression to suppress stem cell-like phenotypes in diverse cancers, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Here, PJA1, an E3 ligase, promoted ubiquitination and degradation of phosphorylated SMAD3 and impaired a SMAD3/β2SP-dependent tumor-suppressing pathway in multiple HCC cell lines. In mice deficient for SMAD3 (Smad3 (+/-)), PJA1 overexpression promoted the transformation of liver stem cells. Analysis of genes regulated by PJA1 knockdown and TGFβ1 signaling revealed 1,584 co-upregulated genes and 1,280 co-downregulated genes, including many implicated in cancer. The E3 ligase inhibitor RTA405 enhanced SMAD3-regulated gene expression and reduced growth of HCC cells in culture and xenografts of HCC tumors, suggesting that inhibition of PJA1 may be beneficial in treating HCC or preventing HCC development in at-risk patients. Significance: These findings provide a novel mechanism regulating the tumor suppressor function of TGFβ in liver carcinogenesis.