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J Biol Chem. 2011 Sep 16;286(37):31932-43. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.267633. Epub 2011 Jul 21.

Cigarette smoke induces Akt protein degradation by the ubiquitin-proteasome system.

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Division of Pharmacology, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Samsung Biomedical Research Institute, Suwon 440-746, Republic of Korea.


Emphysema is one of the characteristic features of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which is caused mainly by cigarette smoking. Recent data have suggested that apoptosis and cell cycle arrest may contribute to the development of emphysema. In this study, we addressed the question of whether and how cigarette smoke affected Akt, which plays a critical role in cell survival and proliferation. In normal human lung fibroblasts, cigarette smoke extract (CSE) caused cell death, accompanying degradation of total and phosphorylated Akt (p-Akt), which was inhibited by MG132. CSE exposure resulted in preferential ubiquitination of the active Akt (myristoylated), rather than the inactive (T308A/S473A double mutant) Akt. Consistent with cytotoxicity, CSE induced a progressive decrease of phosphorylated human homolog of mouse double minute homolog 2 (p-HDM2) and phosphorylated apoptosis signal regulating kinase 1 (p-ASK1) with concomitant elevation of p53, p21, and phosphorylated p38 MAPK. Forced expression of the active Akt reduced both CSE-induced cytotoxicity and alteration in HDM2/p53/p21 and ASK1/p38 MAPK, compared with the inactive Akt. Of note, CSE induced expression of the tetratrico-peptide repeat domain 3 (TTC3), known as a ubiquitin ligase for active Akt. TTC3 siRNAs suppressed not only CSE-induced Akt degradation but also CSE-induced cytotoxicity. Accordingly, rat lungs exposed to cigarette smoke for 3 months showed elevated TTC3 expression and reduced Akt and p-Akt. Taken together, these data suggest that cigarette smoke induces cytotoxicity, partly through Akt degradation via the ubiquitin-proteasome system, in which TTC3 acts as a ubiquitin ligase for active Akt.

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