Essential role of the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex and TAK1 kinase in A20 mutant Hodgkin lymphoma

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2020 Nov 17;117(46):28980-28991. doi: 10.1073/pnas.2014470117. Epub 2020 Nov 2.


More than 70% of Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-negative Hodgkin lymphoma (HL) cases display inactivation of TNFAIP3 (A20), a ubiquitin-editing protein that regulates nonproteolytic protein ubiquitination, indicating the significance of protein ubiquitination in HL pathogenesis. However, the precise mechanistic roles of A20 and the ubiquitination system remain largely unknown in this disease. Here, we performed high-throughput CRISPR screening using a ubiquitin regulator-focused single-guide RNA library in HL lines carrying either wild-type or mutant A20. Our CRISPR screening highlights the essential oncogenic role of the linear ubiquitin chain assembly complex (LUBAC) in HL lines, which overlaps with A20 inactivation status. Mechanistically, LUBAC promotes IKK/NF-κB activity and NEMO linear ubiquitination in A20 mutant HL cells, which is required for prosurvival genes and immunosuppressive molecule expression. As a tumor suppressor, A20 directly inhibits IKK activation and HL cell survival via its C-terminal linear-ubiquitin binding ZF7. Clinically, LUBAC activity is consistently elevated in most primary HL cases, and this is correlated with high NF-κB activity and low A20 expression. To further understand the complete mechanism of NF-κB activation in A20 mutant HL, we performed a specifically designed CD83-based NF-κB CRISPR screen which led us to identify TAK1 kinase as a major mediator for NF-κB activation in cells dependent on LUBAC, where the LUBAC-A20 axis regulates TAK1 and IKK complex formation. Finally, TAK1 inhibitor Takinib shows promising activity against HL in vitro and in a xenograft mouse model. Altogether, these findings provide strong support that targeting LUBAC or TAK1 could be attractive therapeutic strategies in A20 mutant HL.

Keywords: Hodgkin lymphoma; NF-kB; signaling transduction; ubiquitination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Heterografts
  • Hodgkin Disease / genetics*
  • Hodgkin Disease / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases / genetics*
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Protein Binding
  • Signal Transduction
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha-Induced Protein 3
  • Ubiquitin / metabolism*
  • Ubiquitination


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • NEMO protein, mouse
  • NF-kappa B
  • Ubiquitin
  • MAP Kinase Kinase Kinases
  • MAP kinase kinase kinase 7
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor alpha-Induced Protein 3