The ubiquitin proteasome system (UPS) is the main system for controlled protein degradation and a key regulator of fundamental cellular processes. The dependency of cancer cells on a functioning UPS has made this an attractive target for development of drugs that show selectivity for tumor cells. Deubiquitinases (DUBs, ubiquitin isopeptidases) are components of the UPS that catalyze the removal of ubiquitin moieties from target proteins or polyubiquitin chains, resulting in altered signaling or changes in protein stability. A number of DUBs regulate processes associated with cell proliferation and apoptosis, and as such represent candidate targets for cancer therapeutics. The majority of DUBs are cysteine proteases and are likely to be more "druggable" than E3 ligases. Cysteine residues in the active sites of DUBs are expected to be reactive to various electrophiles. Various compounds containing α,β-unsaturated ketones have indeed been demonstrated to inhibit cellular DUB activity. Inhibition of proteasomal cysteine DUB enzymes (i.e. USP14 and UCHL5) can be predicted to be particularly cytotoxic to cancer cells as it leads to blocking of proteasome function and accumulation of proteasomal substrates. We here provide an overall review of DUBs relevant to cancer and of various small molecules which have been demonstrated to inhibit DUB activity.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Cancer therapeutics; Deubiquitinase; Proteasome; Small molecule inhibitors; α,β-unsaturated ketones.
Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Inc.