Parthenolide inhibits ubiquitin-specific peptidase 7 (USP7), Wnt signaling, and colorectal cancer cell growth.
J Biol Chem. 2020 Mar 13 ;295(11):3576-3589. Epub 2020 Feb 6. PMID: 32029476
It has been well-established that the deubiquitinating enzyme ubiquitin-specific peptidase 7 (USP7) supports cancer growth by up-regulating multiple cellular pathways, including Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Therefore, considerable efforts are directed at identifying and developing USP7 inhibitors. Here, we report that sesquiterpene lactone parthenolide (PTL) inhibits USP7 activity, assessed with deubiquitinating enzyme activity assays, including fluorogenic Ub-AMC/Ub-Rho110, Ub-VME/PA labeling, and Di-Ub hydrolysis assays. Further investigations using cellular thermal shift (CETSA), surface plasmon resonance (SPR), and mass spectrum (MS) assays revealed that PTL directly interacts with USP7. Consistent with the role of USP7 in stimulating Wnt signaling and carcinogenesis, PTL treatment inhibited the activity of Wnt signaling partly by destabilizing β-catenin. Moreover, using cell viability assays, we found that PTL suppresses the proliferation of colorectal cancer cells and induces apoptosis in these cells. Additionally, we examined the effects of two other sesquiterpene lactones (costunolide and α-santonin) on USP7 and Wnt signaling and found that α-methylene-γ-butyrolactone may provide a scaffold for future USP7 inhibitors. In summary, our findings reveal that PTL inhibits USP7 activity, identifying a potential mechanism by which PTL suppresses Wnt/β-catenin signaling. We further suggest that sesquiterpene lactones might represent a suitable scaffold for developing USP7 inhibitors and indicate that PTL holds promise as an anticancer agent targeting aberrant USP7/Wnt signaling.