A role for Ubc9 in tumorigenesis

Oncogene. 2005 Apr 14;24(16):2677-83. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1208210.


The post-translational modifications ubiquitination and sumoylation have been implicated in regulating many critical cellular pathways. Like ubiquitination, sumoylation is a multistep process involving maturation, activation, conjugation and deconjugation. Ubc9 is a sole E2-conjugating enzyme essential for sumoylation. We have previously shown that alterations of Ubc9 expression affect tumor drug responsiveness. However, it is not clear whether there is any link between sumoylation and tumorigenesis, even though alterations of the ubiquitination pathway can lead to the development of cancer. In this study, we found that Ubc9 expression levels were elevated in ovarian tumors compared to the matched normal ovarian specimens, suggesting that Ubc9 may play a role in tumorigenesis. To test this, we overexpressed a dominant-negative mutant of Ubc9 (Ubc9-DN) and wild-type Ubc9 (Ubc9-WT) in the MCF-7 human breast tumor cells. Inoculating these cells as xenografts in mice revealed that tumors expressing Ubc9-WT grew better than the vector control, while tumors expressing Ubc9-DN exhibited reduced growth. This pattern was also seen in these cells when grown in culture. To better understand the mechanism behind this observation, we profiled gene expressions in these cells by microarray analysis and found alterations in expression of the pro-oncogene bcl-2 in these Ubc9-DN- and Ubc9-WT-expressing cells. Consistent with the bcl-2 results, subsequent studies revealed a higher rate of apoptosis and poor survival for the MCF-7 cells expressing Ubc9-DN, which are associated with downregulation of bcl-2. Together, these results suggest a role for Ubc9 in tumorigenesis at least partially through regulation of bcl-2 expression.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cell Survival
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Down-Regulation
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Microarray Analysis
  • Ovarian Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes / genetics*
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation


  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Ubiquitin-Conjugating Enzymes
  • ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme UBC9