Stabilization of PIM Kinases in Hypoxia Is Mediated by the Deubiquitinase USP28

Cells. 2022 Mar 16;11(6):1006. doi: 10.3390/cells11061006.


Proviral integration sites for Moloney murine leukemia virus (PIM) kinases are upregulated at the protein level in response to hypoxia and have multiple protumorigenic functions, promoting cell growth, survival, and angiogenesis. However, the mechanism responsible for the induction of PIM in hypoxia remains unknown. Here, we examined factors affecting PIM kinase stability in normoxia and hypoxia. We found that PIM kinases were upregulated in hypoxia at the protein level but not at the mRNA level, confirming that PIMs were upregulated in hypoxia in a hypoxia inducible factor 1-independent manner. PIM kinases were less ubiquitinated in hypoxia than in normoxia, indicating that hypoxia reduced their proteasomal degradation. We identified the deubiquitinase ubiquitin-specific protease 28 (USP28) as a key regulator of PIM1 and PIM2 stability. The overexpression of USP28 increased PIM protein stability and total levels in both normoxia and hypoxia, and USP28-knockdown significantly increased the ubiquitination of PIM1 and PIM2. Interestingly, coimmunoprecipitation assays showed an increased interaction between PIM1/2 and USP28 in response to hypoxia, which correlated with reduced ubiquitination and increased protein stability. In a xenograft model, USP28-knockdown tumors grew more slowly than control tumors and showed significantly lower levels of PIM1 in vivo. In conclusion, USP28 blocked the ubiquitination and increased the stability of PIM1/2, particularly in hypoxia. These data provide the first insight into proteins responsible for controlling PIM protein degradation and identify USP28 as an important upstream regulator of this hypoxia-induced, protumorigenic signaling pathway.

Keywords: PIM kinases; USP28; hypoxia.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Deubiquitinating Enzymes
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-pim-1* / genetics
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase


  • USP28 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-pim-1
  • proto-oncogene proteins pim
  • Deubiquitinating Enzymes
  • Ubiquitin Thiolesterase