We have previously demonstrated that proteasome serves as a central regulator of inflammation and macrophage function. Until recently, proteasomes have generally been considered to play a relatively passive role in the regulation of cellular activity, i.e., any ubiquitinated protein was considered to be in discriminatively targeted for degradation by the proteasome. We have demonstrated, however, by using specific proteasome protease inhibitors and knockout mice lacking specific components of immunoproteasomes, that proteasomes (containing X, Y, and Z protease subunits) and immunoproteasomes (containing LMP7, LMP2, and LMP10 protease subunits) have well-defined functions in cytokine induction and inflammation based on their individual protease activities. We have also shown that LPS-TLR mediated signaling in the murine RAW 264.7 macrophage cell line results in the replacement of macrophage immunoproteasomal subunits. Such modifications serve as pivotal regulators of LPS-induced inflammation. Our findings support the relatively novel concept that defects in structure/function of proteasome protease subunits caused by genetic disorders, aging, diet, or drugs may well have the potential to contribute to modulation of proteasome activity. Of particular relevance, we have identified quercetin and resveratrol, significant constituents present in berries and in red wine respectively, as two novel proteasome inhibitors that have been previously implicated as disease-modifying natural products. We posit that natural proteasome inhibitors/activators can potentially be used as therapeutic response modifiers to prevent/treat diseases through pathways involving the ubiquitin-proteasome pathway (UP-pathway), which likely functions as a master regulator involved in control of overall inflammatory responses. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Ubiquitin Drug Discovery and Diagnostics.
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