A Fast Ubiquitination of UHRF1 Oncogene Is a Unique Feature and a Common Mechanism of Thymoquinone in Cancer Cells

8/19/2021 Downregulation of the ubiquitin-like containing PHD and ring finger 1 (UHRF1) oncogene in cancer cells in response to natural anticancer drugs, including thymoquinone (TQ), is a key event that induces apoptosis. TQ can induce UHRF1 autoubiquitination via the E3 ligase activity of its RING domain, most likely through the downregulation of herpes virus-associated ubiquitin-specific protease (HAUSP). In this study, we evaluated whether HAUSP downregulation and fast ubiquitination of UHRF1 are prerequisites for UHRF1 degradation in response to TQ in cancer cells and whether doxorubicin can mimic the effects of TQ on UHRF1 ubiquitination. RNA sequencing was performed to investigate differentially expressed genes in TQ-treated Jurkat cells. The protein expression of UHRF1, HAUSP and Bcl-2 was detected by means of Western blot analysis. The proliferation of human colon cancer (HCT-116) and Jurkat cells was analyzed via the WST-1 assay. RNA sequencing data revealed that TQ significantly decreased HAUSP expression. TQ triggered UHRF1 to undergo rapid ubiquitination as the first step in its degradation and the inhibition of its cell proliferation. TQ-induced UHRF1 ubiquitination is associated with HAUSP downregulation. Like TQ, doxorubicin induced a similar dose- and time-dependent downregulation of UHRF1 in cancer cells, but UHRF1 did not undergo ubiquitination as detected in response to TQ. Furthermore, TQ decreased Bcl-2 expression without triggering its ubiquitination. A fast UHRF1 ubiquitination is an indispensable event for its degradation in response to TQ but not for its responses to doxorubicin. TQ appears to trigger ubiquitination of UHRF1 but not of the Bcl-2 oncogene, thereby identifying UHRF1 as a specific target of TQ for cancer therapy.

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