The BH3-only protein NOXA represents one of the critical mediators of DNA-damage-induced cell death. In particular, its involvement in cellular responses to cancer chemotherapy is increasingly evident. Here, we identify a strategy of cancer cells to escape genotoxic chemotherapy by increasing proteasomal degradation of NOXA. We show that the deubiquitylating enzyme UCH-L1 is a key regulator of NOXA turnover, which protects NOXA from proteasomal degradation by removing Lys(48)-linked polyubiquitin chains. In the majority of tumors from patients with melanoma or colorectal cancer suffering from high rates of chemoresistance, NOXA fails to accumulate because UCH-L1 expression is epigenetically silenced. Whereas UCH-L1/NOXA-positive tumor samples exhibit increased sensitivity to genotoxic chemotherapy, downregulation of UCH-L1 or inhibition of its deubiquitylase activity resulted in reduced NOXA stability and resistance to genotoxic chemotherapy in both human and C. elegans cells. Our data identify the UCH-L1/NOXA interaction as a therapeutic target for overcoming cancer chemoresistance.
Copyright © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.