J Biol Chem. 2022 Aug 1:102314. doi: 10.1016/j.jbc.2022.102314. Online ahead of print.
The zinc finger ubiquitin ligase RNF6 has been proposed as a potential therapeutic target in several cancers, but understanding its molecular mechanism of degradation has been elusive. In the present study, we find that RNF6 is degraded via auto-ubiquitination in a manner dependent on its Really Interesting New Gene (RING) domain. We determine that when the RING domain is deleted (ΔRING) or the core cysteine residues in the zinc finger are mutated (C632S/C635S), the wild-type protein, but not the ΔRING or mutant RNF6 protein, undergoes polyubiquitination. We also identify USP7 as a deubiquitinase of RNF6 by tandem mass spectrometry. We show that USP7 interacts with RNF6 and abolishes its K48-linked polyubiquitination, thereby preventing its degradation. In contrast, we found a USP7-specific inhibitor promotes RNF6 polyubiquitination, degradation, and cell death. Furthermore, we demonstrate anti-leukemic drug Nilotinib and anti-myeloma drug Panobinostat (LBH589) induce RNF6 K48-linked polyubiquitination and degradation in both multiple myeloma (MM) and leukemia cells. In agreement with our hypothesis on the mode of RNF6 degradation, we show these drugs promote RNF6 auto-ubiquitination in an in vitro ubiquitination system without other E3 ligases. Consistently, re-expression of RNF6 ablates drug-induced MM and leukemia cell apoptosis. Therefore, our results reveal that RNF6 is a RING E3 ligase that undergoes auto-ubiquitination, which could be abolished by USP7 and induced by anti-cancer drugs. We propose chemical induction of RNF6 auto-ubiquitination and degradation could be a novel strategy for the treatment of hematological malignancies including MM and leukemia.