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Cell Death Dis. 2013 Apr 18;4:e590. doi: 10.1038/cddis.2013.120.

E6AP, an E3 ubiquitin ligase negatively regulates granulopoiesis by targeting transcription factor C/EBPα for ubiquitin-mediated proteasome degradation.

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Drug Target Discovery and Development Division, CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, Sector-10, Jankipuram Extension, Lucknow, UP 226021, India.


CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein alpha (C/EBPα) is an important transcription factor involved in granulocytic differentiation. Here, for the first time we demonstrate that E6-associated protein (E6AP), an E3 ubiquitin ligase targets C/EBPα for ubiquitin-mediated proteasome degradation and thereby negatively modulates its functions. Wild-type E6AP promotes ubiquitin dependent proteasome degradation of C/EBPα, while catalytically inactive E6-associated protein having cysteine replaced with alanine at amino-acid position 843 (E6AP-C843A) rather stabilizes it. Further, these two proteins physically associate both in non-myeloid (overexpressed human embryonic kidney epithelium) and myeloid cells. We show that E6AP-mediated degradation of C/EBPα protein expression curtails its transactivation potential on its target genes. Noticeably, E6AP degrades both wild-type 42 kDa CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein alpha (p42C/EBPα) and mutant isoform 30 kDa CCAAT-enhancer-binding protein alpha (p30C/EBPα), this may explain perturbed p42C/EBPα/p30C/EBPα ratio often observed in acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We show that overexpression of catalytically inactive E6AP-C843A in C/EBPα inducible K562- p42C/EBPα-estrogen receptor (ER) cells inhibits β-estradiol (E2)-induced C/EBPα degradation leading to enhanced granulocytic differentiation. This enhanced granulocytic differentiation upon E2-induced activation of C/EBPα in C/EBPα stably transfected cells (β-estradiol inducible K562 cells stably expressing p42C/EBPα-ER (K562-C/EBPα-p42-ER)) was further substantiated by siE6AP-mediated knockdown of E6AP in both K562-C/EBPα-p42-ER and 32dcl3 (32D clone 3, a cell line widely used model for in vitro study of hematopoietic cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis) cells. Taken together, our data suggest that E6AP targeted C/EBPα protein degradation may provide a possible explanation for both loss of expression and/or functional inactivation of C/EBPα often experienced in myeloid leukemia.

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