Fusion-transcription factors (fusion-TFs) represent a class of driver oncoproteins that are difficult to therapeutically target. Recently, protein degradation has emerged as a strategy to target these challenging oncoproteins. The mechanisms that regulate fusion-TF stability, however, are generally unknown. Using CRISPR-Cas9 screening, we discovered tripartite motif-containing 8 (TRIM8) as an E3 ubiquitin ligase that ubiquitinates and degrades EWS/FLI, a driver fusion-TF in Ewing sarcoma. Moreover, we identified TRIM8 as a selective dependency in Ewing sarcoma compared with >700 other cancer cell lines. Mechanistically, TRIM8 knockout led to an increase in EWS/FLI protein levels that was not tolerated. EWS/FLI acts as a neomorphic substrate for TRIM8, defining the selective nature of the dependency. Our results demonstrate that fusion-TF protein stability is tightly regulated and highlight fusion oncoprotein-specific regulators as selective therapeutic targets. This study provides a tractable strategy to therapeutically exploit oncogene overdose in Ewing sarcoma and potentially other fusion-TF-driven cancers.
Keywords: E3 ligases; EWS/FLI; Ewing sarcoma; TRIM8; fusion oncoproteins; neomorphic substrate; oncogene overdose; protein degradation; tumor dependency; ubiquitination.
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