Deubiquitinases in cancer: new functions and therapeutic options

Oncogene. 2012 May 10;31(19):2373-88. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.443. Epub 2011 Sep 26.


Deubiquitinases (DUBs) have fundamental roles in the ubiquitin system through their ability to specifically deconjugate ubiquitin from targeted proteins. The human genome encodes at least 98 DUBs, which can be grouped into 6 families, reflecting the need for specificity in their function. The activity of these enzymes affects the turnover rate, activation, recycling and localization of multiple proteins, which in turn is essential for cell homeostasis, protein stability and a wide range of signaling pathways. Consistent with this, altered DUB function has been related to several diseases, including cancer. Thus, multiple DUBs have been classified as oncogenes or tumor suppressors because of their regulatory functions on the activity of other proteins involved in tumor development. Therefore, recent studies have focused on pharmacological intervention on DUB activity as a rationale to search for novel anticancer drugs. This strategy may benefit from our current knowledge of the physiological regulatory mechanisms of these enzymes and the fact that growth of several tumors depends on the normal activity of certain DUBs. Further understanding of these processes may provide answers to multiple remaining questions on DUB functions and lead to the development of DUB-targeting strategies to expand the repertoire of molecular therapies against cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cell Cycle
  • Chromatin Assembly and Disassembly
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • DNA Damage
  • Endopeptidases / classification
  • Endopeptidases / genetics
  • Endopeptidases / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy*
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / genetics
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cysteine Proteinase Inhibitors
  • Proteasome Inhibitors
  • Endopeptidases