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Deubiquitinating enzyme OTUB1 promotes cancer cell immunosuppression via preventing ER-associated degradation of immune checkpoint protein PD-L1


Prof. Xiaofeng Zheng published a paper in Cell Death & Differentiation.

Upregulation of programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) helps tumor cells escape from immune surveillance, and therapeutic antibodies targeting PD-1/PD-L1 have shown better patient outcomes only in several types of malignancies. Recent studies suggest that the clinical efficacy of anti-PD-1/PD-L1 treatments is associated with PD-L1 levels; however, the underlying mechanism of high PD-L1 protein levels in cancers is not well defined. Here, we report that the deubiquitinase OTUB1 positively regulates PD-L1 stability and mediates cancer immune responses through the PD-1/PD-L1 axis. Mechanistically, we demonstrate that OTUB1 interacts with and removes K48-linked ubiquitin chains from the PD-L1 intracellular domain in a manner dependent on its deubiquitinase activity to hinder the degradation of PD-L1 through the ERAD pathway. Functionally, depletion of OTUB1 markedly decreases PD-L1 abundance, reduces PD-1 protein binding to the tumor cell surface, and causes increased tumor cell sensitivity to human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs)-mediated cytotoxicity. Meanwhile, OTUB1 ablation-induced PD-L1 destabilization facilitates more CD8+ T cells infiltration and increases the level of IFN-γ in serum to enhance antitumor immunity in mice, and the tumor growth suppression by OTUB1 silencing could be reversed by PD-L1 overexpression. Furthermore, we observe a significant correlation between PD-L1 abundance and OTUB1 expression in human breast carcinoma. Our study reveals OTUB1 as a deubiquitinating enzyme that influences cancer immunosuppression via regulation of PD-L1 stability and may be a potential therapeutic target for cancer immunotherapy.

Original link: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41418-020-00700-z