SPOP mutations and TMPRSS2-ERG rearrangements occur collectively in up to 65% of human prostate cancers. Although the two events are mutually exclusive, it is unclear whether they are functionally interrelated. Here, we demonstrate that SPOP, functioning as an E3 ubiquitin ligase substrate-binding protein, promotes ubiquitination and proteasome degradation of wild-type ERG by recognizing a degron motif at the N terminus of ERG. Prostate cancer-associated SPOP mutations abrogate the SPOP-mediated degradation function on the ERG oncoprotein. Conversely, the majority of TMPRSS2-ERG fusions encode N-terminal-truncated ERG proteins that are resistant to the SPOP-mediated degradation because of degron impairment. Our findings reveal degradation resistance as a previously uncharacterized mechanism that contributes to elevation of truncated ERG proteins in prostate cancer. They also suggest that overcoming ERG resistance to SPOP-mediated degradation represents a viable strategy for treatment of prostate cancers expressing either mutated SPOP or truncated ERG.
Copyright © 2015 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.