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Nat Commun. 2013;4:1568. doi: 10.1038/ncomms2532.

Reversible inactivation of deubiquitinases by reactive oxygen species in vitro and in cells.

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  • 1Laboratory of Molecular Biology, National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20892, USA.


In eukaryotes, deubiquitinases (DUBs) remove ubiquitin conjugates from diverse substrates, altering their stabilities, localizations or activities. Here we show that many DUBs of the USP and UCH subfamilies can be reversibly inactivated upon oxidation by reactive oxygen species in vitro and in cells. Oxidation occurs preferentially on the catalytic cysteine, abrogating the isopeptide-cleaving activity without affecting these enzymes' affinity to ubiquitin. Sensitivity to oxidative inhibition is associated with DUB activation wherein the active site cysteine is converted to a deprotonated state prone to oxidation. We demonstrate that this redox regulation is essential for mono-ubiquitination of proliferating-cell nuclear antigen in response to oxidative DNA damage, which initiates a DNA damage-tolerance programme. These findings establish a novel mechanism of DUB regulation that may be integrated with other redox-dependent signalling circuits to govern cellular adaptation to oxidative stress, a process intimately linked to aging and cancer.

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