SMURF2 phosphorylation at Thr249 modifies glioma stemness and tumorigenicity by regulating TGF-β receptor stability

Commun Biol. 2022 Jan 11;5(1):22. doi: 10.1038/s42003-021-02950-0.


Glioma stem cells (GSCs) contribute to the pathogenesis of glioblastoma, the most malignant form of glioma. The implication and underlying mechanisms of SMAD specific E3 ubiquitin protein ligase 2 (SMURF2) on the GSC phenotypes remain unknown. We previously demonstrated that SMURF2 phosphorylation at Thr249 (SMURF2Thr249) activates its E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. Here, we demonstrate that SMURF2Thr249 phosphorylation plays an essential role in maintaining GSC stemness and tumorigenicity. SMURF2 silencing augmented the self-renewal potential and tumorigenicity of patient-derived GSCs. The SMURF2Thr249 phosphorylation level was low in human glioblastoma pathology specimens. Introduction of the SMURF2T249A mutant resulted in increased stemness and tumorigenicity of GSCs, recapitulating the SMURF2 silencing. Moreover, the inactivation of SMURF2Thr249 phosphorylation increases TGF-β receptor (TGFBR) protein stability. Indeed, TGFBR1 knockdown markedly counteracted the GSC phenotypes by SMURF2T249A mutant. These findings highlight the importance of SMURF2Thr249 phosphorylation in maintaining GSC phenotypes, thereby demonstrating a potential target for GSC-directed therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogenesis / genetics
  • Carcinogenesis / pathology
  • Female
  • Glioblastoma* / genetics
  • Glioblastoma* / pathology
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Phosphorylation / genetics
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics*
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases / genetics*


  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • SMURF2 protein, human
  • Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases