The role of TRIM family proteins in the regulation of cancer stem cell self-renewal

Stem Cells. 2020 Feb;38(2):165-173. doi: 10.1002/stem.3109. Epub 2019 Nov 9.


The tripartite-motif (TRIM) family of proteins represents one of the largest classes of putative single protein RING-finger E3 ubiquitin ligases. The members of this family are characterized by an N-terminal TRIM motif containing one RING-finger domain, one or two zinc-finger domains called B boxes (B1 box and B2 box), and a coiled-coil region. The TRIM motif can be found in isolation or in combination with a variety of C-terminal domains, and based on C-terminus, TRIM proteins are classified into 11 distinct groups. Because of the complex nature of TRIM proteins, they are implicated in a variety of cellular functions and biological processes, including regulation of cell proliferation, cell division and developmental processes, cancer transformation, regulation of cell metabolism, autophagocytosis, modification of chromatin status, regulation of gene transcription, post-translational modifications, and interactions with pathogens. Here, we demonstrate the specific activities of TRIM family proteins that contribute to the cancer stem cell phenotype. A growing body of evidence demonstrates that several TRIM members guarantee the acquisition of stem cell properties and the ability to sustain stem-like phenotype by cancer cells using distinct mechanisms. For other members, further work is needed to understand their full contribution to stem cell self-renewal. Identification of TRIM proteins that possess the potential to serve as therapeutic targets may result in the development of new therapeutic strategies. Finally, these strategies may result in the disruption of the machinery of stemness acquisition, which may prevent tumor growth, progression, and overcome the resistance to anticancer therapies.

Keywords: RING; TRIM; cancer; pluripotency; self-renewal; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cell Self Renewal / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Tripartite Motif Proteins / metabolism*


  • Tripartite Motif Proteins