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Cell Prolif. 2019 May;52(3):e12606. doi: 10.1111/cpr.12606. Epub 2019 Mar 21.

Reduced USP33 expression in gastric cancer decreases inhibitory effects of Slit2-Robo1 signalling on cell migration and EMT.

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Department of Gastric Surgery, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China.
State Key Laboratory of Brain and Cognitive Science, Institute of Biophysics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing, China.
Department of General Surgery, Affiliated Hospital of Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China.
Department of Neurology, Center for Genetic Medicine, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, Illinois.
Department of Neurology, Center for Genetic Medicine, Lurie Cancer Center, Chicago, Illinois.
Jiangsu Key Lab of Cancer Biomarkers, Prevention and Treatment, Jiangsu Collaborative Innovation Center for Cancer Personalized Medicine, School of Publich Health, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing, China.



Gastric cancer (GC) is one of the most common cancers in the world, causing a large number of deaths every year. The Slit-Robo signalling pathway, initially discovered for its critical role in neuronal guidance, has recently been shown to modulate tumour invasion and metastasis in several human cancers. However, the role of Slit-Robo signalling and the molecular mechanisms underlying its role in the pathogenesis of gastric cancer remains to be elucidated.


Slit2, Robo1 and USP33 expressions were analysed in datasets obtained from the Oncomine database and measured in human gastric cancer specimens. The function of Slit2-Robo1-USP33 signalling on gastric cancer cells migration and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) was studied both in vitro and in vivo. The mechanism of the interaction between Robo1 and USP33 was explored by co-IP and ubiquitination protein analysis.


The mRNA and protein levels of Slit2 and Robo1 are lower in GC tissues relative to those in adjacent healthy tissues. Importantly, Slit2 inhibits GC cell migration and suppresses EMT process in a Robo-dependent manner. The inhibitory function of Slit2-Robo1 is mediated by ubiquitin-specific protease 33 (USP33) via deubiquitinating and stabilizing Robo1. USP33 expression is decreased in GC tissues, and reduced USP33 level is correlated with poor patient survival.


Our study reveals the inhibitory function of Slit-Robo signalling in GC and uncovers a role of USP33 in suppressing cancer cell migration and EMT by enhancing Slit2-Robo1 signalling. USP33 represents a feasible choice as a prognostic biomarker for GC.


EMT; Robo1; Slit2; USP33; gastric cancer; migration and invasion

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