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Cell Death Differ. 2019 May;26(5):812-825. doi: 10.1038/s41418-018-0153-0. Epub 2018 Jul 13.

Regulating BRCA1 protein stability by cathepsin S-mediated ubiquitin degradation.

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Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, 120-750, Korea.
Functional Morphometry II, Institute Pasteur Korea, Bundang-gu, Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do, 463-400, Korea.
Division of Basic Radiation Bioscience, Korea Institute of Radiological and Medical Sciences, Seoul, 139-706, Korea.
Graduate School of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, 120-750, Korea.


Cathepsin S (CTSS) is a cysteine protease that is thought to play a role in many physiological and pathological processes including tumor growth, angiogenesis, and metastasis; it has been identified as a radiation response gene. Here, we examined the role of CTSS in regulating the DNA damage response in breast cancer cells. Activating CTSS (producing the cleavage form of the protein) by radiation induced proteolytic degradation of BRCA1, which ultimately suppressed DNA double-strand break repair activity. Depletion of CTSS by RNAi or expression of a mutant type of CTSS enhanced the protein stability of BRCA1 by inhibiting its ubiquitination. CTSS interacted with the BRCT domain of BRCA1 and facilitated ubiquitin-mediated proteolytic degradation of BRCA1, which was tightly associated with decreased BRCA1-mediated DNA repair activity. Treatment with a pharmacological CTSS inhibitor inhibited proteolytic degradation of BRCA1 and restored BRCA1 function. Depletion of CTSS by shRNA delayed tumor growth in a xenograft mouse model, only in the presence of functional BRCA1. Spontaneously uced rat mammary tumors and human breast cancer tissues with high levels of CTSS expression showed low BRCA1 expression. From these data, we suggest that CTSS inhibition is a good strategy for functional restoration of BRCA1 in breast cancers with reduced BRCA1 protein stability.


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