Systematic characterization of mutations altering protein degradation in human cancers

Mol Cell. 2021 Mar 18;81(6):1292-1308.e11. doi: 10.1016/j.molcel.2021.01.020. Epub 2021 Feb 9.


The ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) is the primary route for selective protein degradation in human cells. The UPS is an attractive target for novel cancer therapies, but the precise UPS genes and substrates important for cancer growth are incompletely understood. Leveraging multi-omics data across more than 9,000 human tumors and 33 cancer types, we found that over 19% of all cancer driver genes affect UPS function. We implicate transcription factors as important substrates and show that c-Myc stability is modulated by CUL3. Moreover, we developed a deep learning model (deepDegron) to identify mutations that result in degron loss and experimentally validated the prediction that gain-of-function truncating mutations in GATA3 and PPM1D result in increased protein stability. Last, we identified UPS driver genes associated with prognosis and the tumor microenvironment. This study demonstrates the important role of UPS dysregulation in human cancer and underscores the potential therapeutic utility of targeting the UPS.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Deep Learning*
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Models, Genetic*
  • Mutation*
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / genetics
  • Neoplasm Proteins* / metabolism
  • Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Proteolysis*


  • Neoplasm Proteins