Naturally occurring isothiocyanates exert anticancer effects by inhibiting deubiquitinating enzymes.
Cancer Res. 2015 Nov 5. Epub 2015 Nov 5. PMID: 26542215
Ann P Lawson
The anticancer properties of cruciferous vegetables are well known and attributed to an abundance of isothiocyanates (ITCs) such as benzyl ITC (BITC) and phenethyl ITC (PEITC). While many potential targets of ITCs have been proposed, a full understanding of the mechanisms underlying their anticancer activity has remained elusive. Here we report that BITC and PEITC effectively inhibit deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs), including the enzymes USP9x and UCH37, which are associated with tumorigenesis, at physiologically relevant concentrations and time scales. USP9x protects the anti-apoptotic protein Mcl-1 from degradation, and cells dependent on Mcl-1 were especially sensitive to BITC and PEITC. These ITCs increased Mcl-1 ubiquitination and either ITC treatment or RNAi-mediated silencing of USP9x decreased Mcl-1 levels, consistent with the notion that USP9x is a primary target of ITC activity. These ITCs also increased ubiquitination of the oncogenic fusion protein Bcr-Abl, resulting in degradation under low ITC concentrations and aggregation under high ITC concentrations. USP9x inhibition paralleled the decrease in Bcr-Abl levels induced by ITC treatment, and USP9x silencing was sufficient to decrease Bcr-Abl levels, further suggesting that Bcr-Abl is a USP9x substrate. Overall, our findings suggest that USP9x targeting is critical to the mechanism underpinning the well established anticancer activity of ITC. We propose that the ITC-induced inhibition of DUB may also explain how ITCs affect inflammatory and DNA repair processes, thus offering a unifying theme in understanding the function and useful application of ITCs to treat cancer as well as a variety of other pathological conditions.