Evidence for the ISG15-specific deubiquitinase usp18 as an antineoplastic target

Lisa Maria Mustachio, Yun Lu, Masanori Kawakami, Jason Roszik, Sarah J. Freemantle, Xi Liu, Ethan Dmitrovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Ubiquitination and ubiquitin-like posttranslational modifications (PTM) regulate activity and stability of oncoproteins and tumor suppressors. This implicates PTMs as antineoplastic targets. One way to alter PTMs is to inhibit activity of deubiquitinases (DUB) that remove ubiquitin or ubiquitin-like proteins from substrate proteins. Roles of DUBs in carcinogenesis have been intensively studied, yet few inhibitors exist. Prior work provides a basis for the ubiquitin-specific protease 18 (USP18) as an antineoplastic target. USP18 is the major DUB that removes IFN-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) from conjugated proteins. Prior work discovered that engineered loss of USP18 increases ISGylation and in contrast to its gain decreases cancer growth by destabilizing growth-regulatory proteins. Loss of USP18 reduced cancer cell growth by triggering apoptosis. Genetic loss of USP18 repressed cancer formation in engineered murine lung cancer models. The translational relevance of USP18 was confirmed by finding its expression was deregulated in malignant versus normal tissues. Notably, the recent elucidation of the USP18 crystal structure offers a framework for developing an inhibitor to this DUB. This review summarizes strong evidence for USP18 as a previously unrecognized pharmacologic target in oncology.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)587-592
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 1 2018

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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