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ISGylation-independent protection of cell growth by USP18 following interferon stimulation.

Biochemical Journal 2023 September 27
Type 1 interferon stimulation highly up-regulates all elements of a ubiquitin-like conjugation system that leads to ISGylation of target proteins. An ISG15-specific member of the deubiquitylase family, USP18, is up-regulated in a co-ordinated manner. USP18 can also provide a negative feedback by inhibiting JAK-STAT signaling through protein interactions independently of DUB activity. Here, we provide an acute example of this phenomenon, whereby the early expression of USP18, post-interferon treatment of HCT116 colon cancer cells is sufficient to fully suppress the expression of the ISG15 E1 enzyme, UBA7. Stimulation of lung adenocarcinoma A549 cells with interferon reduces their growth rate but they remain viable. In contrast, A549 USP18 knock-out cells show similar growth characteristics under basal conditions, but upon interferon stimulation, a profound inhibition of cell growth is observed. We show that this contingency on USP18 is independent of ISGylation, suggesting non-catalytic functions are required for viability. We also demonstrate that global deISGylation kinetics are very slow compared to deubiquitylation. This is not influenced by USP18 expression, suggesting that enhanced ISGylation in USP18 KOcells reflects increased conjugating activity.

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