Ubiquitin signaling in cell cycle control

The ubiquitin proteasome system plays a vital role in normal cell cycle progression and its dysfunction is implicated in cancer proliferation. Our goal is to investigate mechanisms that promote cell cycle progression, examine how they are regulated in cancer, and to determine how they support tumor cell proliferation.

 

 

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The cancer cell cycle

The G1/S boundary represents a major barrier to tumorigenesis. We recently identified a double negative feedback loop, involving two E3 ubiquitin ligases, that controls S-phase entry (link: Choudhury et al, 2016). Significantly, we showed that this circuit is controlled by the oncogenic kinase AKT (link: Choudhury et al, 2017). We are investigating additional substrates controlled by these two E3 enzymes, and the mechanisms by which they promote normal and cancer cell cycles.

 

 

 

Cell cycle transcription

The ubiquitin system plays a vital role in shaping transcriptional dynamics.  We are specifically interested in a cell cycle transcription factor FoxM1, that is hyper-activated in several malignancies, including high-grade serous ovarian cancers and triple-negative, basal-like breast cancer. We recently discovered a component in the ubiquitin system that, paradoxically, promotes FoxM1 degradation and activation (link: Wang et al, 2016). We are focused on mechanisms by which FoxM1 is regulated and in defining strategies to attack FoxM1 for therapeutic benefit.

 

 

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Chromosome segregation

Chromosome segregation fidelity during mitosis is essential to prevent chromosome instability and cancer. We previously identified a spindle associated, mitotic phospho-protein, NUSAP1, as a substrate of ubiquitin mediated destruction (link: Emanuele et al, Cell 2011). Further, we showed that NUSAP1 interacts with a SUMO ligase during mitosis, implicated NUSAP1 in bridging the ubiquitin and SUMO systems (link: Mills et al, 2017). Determining how SUMO and ubiquitin coordinately control chromosome stability and how these systems are perturbed in disease is an area of ongoing study.

 

Global analysis of ubiquitin systems 

The protein landscape is dynamically reorganized in response to environmental changes and stress, during development, throughout the cell cycle and in cancer . These dynamics are controlled, in part, by the targeted degradation of specific proteins. Two key challenges in the ubiquitin field are globally monitoring ubiquitin dynamics, and connecting enzymes and substrates, akin to matching transcription factors with their target genes. To address this challenge we are implementing technologies that assess global, proteome wide changes in protein stability using genetic and proteomic methods that we previously developed (Emanuele et al, Cell 2011).