Cell Death Dis. 2020 Sep 23;11(9):796. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-03008-5.
Chemotherapy remains an essential part of diverse treatment regimens against human malignancies. However, recent progressions have revealed a paradoxical role of chemotherapies to induce the cancer stem cell-like features that facilitate chemoresistance and tumor dissemination, with the underlying mechanisms underinvestigated. The zinc-finger transcription factor Snail1 is a central regulator during the epithelial-mesenchymal transition process and is closely implicated in cancer progression.
Snail1 expression is strictly regulated at multiple layers, with its stability governed by post-translational ubiquitylation that is counterbalanced by the activities of diverse E3 ligases and deubiquitylases. Here we identify the deubiquitylase USP29 as a novel stabilizer of Snail1, which potently restricts its ubiquitylation in a catalytic activity-dependent manner. Bioinformatic analysis reveals a reverse correlation between USP29 expression and prognosis in lung adenocarcinoma patients. USP29 is unique among Snail1 deubiquitylases through exhibiting chemotherapy-induced upregulation. Mechanistically, oxidative stresses incurred by chemotherapy stimulate transcriptional activation of USP29. USP29 upregulation enhances the cancer stem cell-like characteristics in lung adenocarcinoma cells to promote tumorigenesis in athymic nude mice. Our findings uncover a novel mechanism by which chemotherapy induces cancer stemness and suggest USP29 as a potential therapeutic target to impede the development of chemoresistance and metastasis in lung adenocarcinoma.