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Blood. 2011 Mar 17;117(11):3151-62. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-03-276477. Epub 2011 Jan 19.

Bcr-Abl ubiquitination and Usp9x inhibition block kinase signaling and promote CML cell apoptosis.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology, University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.


Although chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) is effectively controlled by Bcr-Abl kinase inhibitors, resistance to inhibitors, progressive disease, and incomplete eradication of Bcr-Abl-expressing cells are concerns for the long-term control and suppression of this disease. We describe a novel approach to targeting key proteins in CML cells with a ubiquitin-cycle inhibitor, WP1130. Bcr-Abl is rapidly modified with K63-linked ubiquitin polymers in WP1130-treated CML cells, resulting in its accumulation in aggresomes, where is it unable to conduct signal transduction. Induction of apoptosis because of aggresomal compartmentalization of Bcr-Abl was observed in both imatinib-sensitive and -resistant cells. WP1130, but not Bcr-Abl kinase inhibitors, directly inhibits Usp9x deubiquitinase activity, resulting in the down-regulation of the prosurvival protein Mcl-1 and facilitating apoptosis. These results demonstrate that ubiquitin-cycle inhibition represents a novel and effective approach to blocking Bcr-Abl kinase signaling and reducing Mcl-1 levels to engage CML cell apoptosis. This approach may be a therapeutic option for kinase inhibitor-resistant CML patients.

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