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May 2011 Molecular and cellular biology

The ubiquitin-specific protease USP34 regulates axin stability and Wnt/β-catenin signaling.


Lui TT, Lacroix C, Ahmed SM, Goldenberg SJ, Leach CA, Daulat AM, Angers S


Wnt proteins control multiple cell behaviors during development and tissue homeostasis. However, pathological activation of Wnt signaling is the underlying cause of various human diseases. The ubiquitin-proteasome system plays important regulatory functions within the Wnt pathway by regulating the activity of several of its core components. Hence, multiple E3 ubiquitin ligases have been implicated in its regulation. Less is known, however, about the role of ubiquitin-specific proteases in Wnt signaling. Analysis of purified axin-containing protein complexes by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry revealed the presence of the ubiquitin protease USP34. Our results indicate that USP34 functions downstream of the β-catenin destruction complex to control the stability of axin and opposes its tankyrase-dependent ubiquitination. Reflecting on the requirement for tight control of axin homeostasis during Wnt signaling, interfering with USP34 function by RNA interference leads to the degradation of axin and to the inhibition of β-catenin-mediated transcription. Given the numerous human diseases exhibiting spurious Wnt pathway activation, the development of USP34 inhibitors may offer a novel therapeutic opportunity.

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