Research Papers:

The ubiquitin E3 ligase ITCH enhances breast tumor progression by inhibiting the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway

Zaidoun Salah _, Ella Itzhaki and Rami I. Aqeilan

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:10886-10900. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2540

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Zaidoun Salah1,2, Ella Itzhaki1, Rami I. Aqeilan1,3

1The Lautenberg Center for Immunology and Cancer Research, IMRIC, Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel

2Al Quds-Bard College, Al-Quds University, Abu Dies, East Jerusalem, Palestine

3Department of Molecular Virology, Immunology and Medical Genetics, The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

Correspondence to:

Rami Aqeilan, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: Hippo pathway, ITCH, YAP, breast cancer, metastasis

Received: July 15, 2014     Accepted: September 28, 2014     Published: October 11, 2014


The Hippo kinase pathway is emerging as a conserved signaling pathway that is essential for organ growth and tumorigenesis. Recently, we reported that the ubiquitin E3 ligase ITCH negatively regulates LATS1, thereby increasing YAP activity, which leads to increased cell proliferation and decreased apoptosis. Here, we investigated the role of ITCH in breast tumorigenesis. In particular, we show that ITCH enhances epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) through boosting YAP oncogenic function. By contrast, a point mutation in the catalytic domain or WW1 domain of ITCH abolished its EMT-mediated effects. Furthermore, while overexpression of ITCH expression in breast cells is associated with increased incidence of mammary tumor formation and progression, its knockdown inhibited breast cancer cell tumorigenicity and metastasis. Importantly, YAP knockdown was able to attenuate ITCH pro-tumorigenic functions. Lastly, we found that ITCH expression is significantly upregulated in invasive and metastatic breast cancer cases and is associated with worse survival. Together, our results reveal that ITCH pro-tumorigenic functions in breast cancer are mediated, at least in part, through inactivation of the Hippo tumor suppressor pathway.

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