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J Biol Chem. 2010 Nov 19;285(47):36420-6. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.137471. Epub 2010 Sep 21.

The protein stability of Axin, a negative regulator of Wnt signaling, is regulated by Smad ubiquitination regulatory factor 2 (Smurf2).

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Department of Life Science, University of Seoul, 90 Jeonnong-dong, Dongdaemun-gu, Seoul 130-743, Korea.


Axin is a negative regulator of Wnt/β-catenin signaling via regulating the level of β-catenin, which is a key effector molecule. Therefore, controlling the level of Axin is a critical step for the regulation of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. It has been shown that ubiquitination-mediated proteasomal degradation may play a critical role in the regulation of Axin; however, the E3 ubiquitin ligase(s), which attaches ubiquitin to a target protein in combination with an E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme, for Axin has not yet been identified. Here, we show that Smurf2 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase for Axin. Transient expression of Smurf2 down-regulated the level of Axin and increased the ubiquitination of Axin. Conversely, shRNA specific to Smurf2 blocked Axin ubiquitination. Essential domains of Axin responsible for Smurf2 interaction as well as Smurf2-mediated down-regulation and ubiquitination were identified. In vitro ubiquitination assays followed by analysis using mass spectroscopy revealed that Smurf2 specifically ubiquitinylated Lys(505) of Axin and that the Axin(K505R) mutant resisted degradation. Knockdown of endogenous Smurf2 increased the level of endogenous Axin and resulted in reduced β-catenin/Tcf reporter activity. Overall, our data strongly suggest that Smurf2 is a genuine E3 ligase for Axin.

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