Selective targeting of activating and inhibitory Smads by distinct WWP2 ubiquitin ligase isoforms differentially modulates TGFβ signalling and EMT

S. M. Soond, A. Chantry

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Ubiquitin-dependent mechanisms have emerged as essential regulatory elements controlling cellular levels of Smads and TGFß-dependent biological outputs such as epithelial–mesenchymal transition (EMT). In this study, we identify a HECT E3 ubiquitin ligase known as WWP2 (Full-length WWP2-FL), together with two WWP2 isoforms (N-terminal, WWP2-N; C-terminal WWP2-C), as novel Smad-binding partners. We show that WWP2-FL interacts exclusively with Smad2, Smad3 and Smad7 in the TGFß pathway. Interestingly, the WWP2-N isoform interacts with Smad2 and Smad3, whereas WWP2-C interacts only with Smad7. In addition, WWP2-FL and WWP2-C have a preference for Smad7 based on protein turnover and ubiquitination studies. Unexpectedly, we also find that WWP2-N, which lacks the HECT ubiquitin ligase domain, can also interact with WWP2-FL in a TGFß-regulated manner and activate endogenous WWP2 ubiquitin ligase activity causing degradation of unstimulated Smad2 and Smad3. Consistent with our protein interaction data, overexpression and knockdown approaches reveal that WWP2 isoforms differentially modulate TGFß-dependent transcription and EMT. Finally, we show that selective disruption of WWP2 interactions with inhibitory Smad7 can stabilise Smad7 protein levels and prevent TGFß-induced EMT. Collectively, our data suggest that WWP2-N can stimulate WWP2-FL leading to increased activity against unstimulated Smad2 and Smad3, and that Smad7 is a preferred substrate for WWP2-FL and WWP2-C following prolonged TGFß stimulation. Significantly, this is the first report of an interdependent biological role for distinct HECT E3 ubiquitin ligase isoforms, and highlights an entirely novel regulatory paradigm that selectively limits the level of inhibitory and activating Smads.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2451-2462
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jan 2011

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