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J Biol Chem. 2013 Mar 29;288(13):9373-82. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M112.374744. Epub 2013 Feb 10.

Identification of the E3 deubiquitinase ubiquitin-specific peptidase 21 (USP21) as a positive regulator of the transcription factor GATA3.

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Key Laboratory of Molecular Virology and Immunology, Unit of Molecular Immunology, Institut Pasteur of Shanghai, Shanghai Institutes for Biological Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, 411 Hefei Road, Shanghai 200025, China.


The expression of the transcription factor GATA3 in FOXP3(+) regulatory T (Treg) cells is crucial for their physiological function in limiting inflammatory responses. Although other studies have shown how T cell receptor (TcR) signals induce the up-regulation of GATA3 expression in Treg cells, the underlying mechanism that maintains GATA3 expression in Treg cells remains unclear. Here, we show how USP21 interacts with and stabilizes GATA3 by mediating its deubiquitination. In a T cell line model, we found that TcR stimulation promoted USP21 expression, which was further up-regulated in the presence of FOXP3. The USP21 mutant C221A reduced its capacity to stabilize GATA3 expression, and its knockdown led to the down-regulation of GATA3 protein expression in Treg cells. Furthermore, we found that FOXP3 could directly bind to the USP21 gene promoter and activated its transcription upon TcR stimulation. Finally, USP21, GATA3, and FOXP3 were found up-regulated in Treg cells that were isolated from asthmatic subjects. In summary, we have identified a USP21-mediated pathway that promotes GATA3 stabilization and expression at the post-translational level. We propose that this pathway forms an important signaling loop that stabilizes the expression of GATA3 in Treg cells.

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