Zhan W, et al. Oncogenesis 2020.
Histone modification represents a crucial level of gene expression regulation and is actively involved in the carcinogenesis of human colorectal cancer. Histone acetyltransferases and deacetylases modulate the landscape of histone acetylation, which controls key genes of colorectal cancer pathology. However, the fine tune of histone deacetylases, especially the modification of histone deacetylases that facilitate colorectal cancer, remains elusive. Here, we identified that an ubiquitin-specific
protease (USP), USP38, was downregulated in clinical colorectal cancer samples and colorectal cancer cell lines. Importantly, our results showed that USP38 was a specific deubiquitinase of histone deacetylase 3 (HDAC3), which cleaved the lysine 63 ubiquitin chain. Ubiquitination of HDAC3 resulted in a decreased level of histone acetylation and finally led to upregulation of cancer stem cell-related genes. In addition, our results demonstrated a tumor suppressor role of USP38 in colorectal cancer via inhibiting cancer stem cell populations. Most importantly, the ubiquitination level of HDAC3 was responsible for USP38 mediated regulation of cancer stem cell-related transcripts. Our data provided functional insights of USP38 and HDAC3 in colorectal cancer and revealed novel mechanisms of ubiquitination mediated epigenetic regulation.