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J Biol Chem. 2005 Jun 10;280(23):22115-23. Epub 2005 Apr 6.

Degradation of the tumor suppressor Smad4 by WW and HECT domain ubiquitin ligases.

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  • 1Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Box 595, Biomedical Center, Uppsala University, SE-751 24 Uppsala, Sweden.


Smad4 mediates signaling by the transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) superfamily of cytokines. Smad signaling is negatively regulated by inhibitory (I) Smads and ubiquitin-mediated processes. Known mechanisms of proteasomal degradation of Smads depend on the direct interaction of specific E3 ligases with Smads. Alternatively, I-Smads elicit degradation of the TGF-beta receptor by recruiting the WW and HECT domain E3 ligases, Smurfs, WWP1, or NEDD4-2. We describe an equivalent mechanism of degradation of Smad4 by the above E3 ligases, via formation of ternary complexes between Smad4 and Smurfs, mediated by R-Smads (Smad2) or I-Smads (Smad6/7), acting as adaptors. Smurfs, which otherwise cannot directly bind to Smad4, mediated poly-ubiquitination of Smad4 in the presence of Smad6 or Smad7. Smad4 co-localized with Smad7 and Smurf1 primarily in the cytoplasm and in peripheral cell protrusions. Smad2 or Smad7 mutants defective in Smad4 interaction failed to induce Smurf1-mediated down-regulation of Smad4. A Smad4 mutant defective in Smad2 or Smad7 interaction could not be effectively down-regulated by Smurf1. We propose that Smad4 is targeted for degradation by multiple ubiquitin ligases that can simultaneously act on R-Smads and signaling receptors. Such mechanisms of down-regulation of TGF-beta signaling may be critical for proper physiological response to this pathway.

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