The ubiquitin-specific peptidase USP18 promotes lipolysis, fatty acid oxidation, and lung cancer growth

Xi Liu, Yun Lu, Zibo Chen, Xiuxia Liu, Weiguo Hu, Lin Zheng, Yulong Chen, Jonathan M. Kurie, Mi Shi, Lisa Maria Mustachio, Thorkell Adresson, Stephen Fox, Jason Roszik, Masanori Kawakami, Sarah J. Freemantle, Ethan Dmitrovsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Ubiquitin specific peptidase 18 (USP18), previously known as UBP43, is the IFN-stimulated gene 15 (ISG15) deconjugase. USP18 removes ISG15 from substrate proteins. This study reports that USP18-null mice (vs. wild-type mice) exhibited lower lipolysis rates, altered fat to body weight ratios, and cold sensitivity. USP18 is a regulator of lipid and fatty acid metabolism. Prior work established that USP18 promotes lung tumorigenesis. We sought to learn whether this occurs through altered lipid and fatty acid metabolism. Loss of USP18 repressed adipose triglyceride lipase (ATGL) expression; gain of USP18 expression upregulated ATGL in lung cancer cells. The E1-like ubiquitin activating enzyme promoted ISG15 conjugation of ATGL and destabilization. Immunoprecipitation assays confirmed that ISG15 covalently conjugates to ATGL. Protein expression of thermogenic regulators was examined in brown fat of USP18-null versus wild-type mice. Uncoupling protein 1 (UCP1) was repressed in USP18-null fat. Gain of USP18 expression augmented UCP1 protein via reduced ubiquitination. Gain of UCP1 expression in lung cancer cell lines enhanced cellular proliferation. UCP1 knockdown inhibited proliferation. Beta-hydroxybutyrate colorimetric assays performed after gain of UCP1 expression revealed increased cellular fatty acid beta-oxidation, augmenting fatty acid beta-oxidation in Seahorse assays. Combined USP18, ATGL, and UCP1 profiles were interrogated in The Cancer Genome Atlas. Intriguingly, lung cancers with increased USP18, ATGL, and UCP1 expression had an unfavorable survival. These findings reveal that USP18 is a pharmacologic target that controls fatty acid metabolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)667-677
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular Cancer Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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