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Cancer Biol Ther. 2003 Nov-Dec;2(6):623-9.

Targeting E3 ubiquitin ligases for cancer therapy.

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  • 1Division of Cancer Biology, Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-0936, USA.


E3 ubiquitin ligases are a large family of proteins that can be classified into three major structurally distinct types: N-end rule E3s, E3s containing the HECT (Homology to E6AP C-Terminus) domain, and E3s with the RING (Really Interesting New Gene) finger, including its derivatives, the U- Box and the PHD (Plant Homeo-Domain). E3 ubiquitin ligases exist as single polypeptide or multimeric complexes. Together with ubiquitin activating enzyme E1 and ubiquitin conjugating enzyme E2, E3 ubiquitin ligases catalyze the ubiquitination of a variety of protein substrates for targeted degradation via the 26S proteasome. E3 ubiqutin ligases, therefore, play an essential role in regulation of many biological processes. Furthermore, E3s are enzymes that determine the specificity of protein substrates; they represent a class of "drugable" targets for pharmaceutical intervention. In this review, I will mainly focus on E3 ubiquitin ligases as potential cancer targets and discuss three of the most promising E3s, Mdm2/Hdm2, IAPs, and SCF, for their target rationales, target validation, and critical issues associated with them. These E3 ligases or their components are overexpressed in many human cancers and their inhibition leads to growth suppression or apoptosis. In addition, I will evaluate two current methodologies available for the high throughput screening for small molecular weight chemical inhibitors of the E3 ubiquitin ligases. Although targeting E3 ubiquitin ligases is still in its infancy, speedy approval of the general proteasome inhibitor, Velcade (bortezomib) by the FDA for the treatment of relapsed and refractory multiple myeloma suggests the promise of specific E3 inhibitors in anti-cancer therapy. Emerging technologies, such as siRNA, will provide a better validation of many E3s. It is anticipated that E3 ubiquitin ligases will represent an important new target platform for future mechanism-driven drug discovery.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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