Ubiquitylation is a tightly regulated process that is essential for appropriate cell survival and function, and the ubiquitin pathway has shown promise as a therapeutic target for several forms of cancer. In this issue of the JCI, Kedves and colleagues report the identification of a subset of gynecological cancers with repressed expression of the polyubiquitin gene UBB, which renders these cancer cells sensitive to further decreases in ubiquitin production by inhibition of the polyubiquitin gene UBC. Moreover, inducible depletion of UBC in mice harboring tumors with low UBB levels dramatically decreased tumor burden and prolonged survival. Together, the results of this study indicate that there is a synthetic lethal relationship between UBB and UBC that has potential to be exploited as a therapeutic strategy to fight these devastating cancers.
Diane L. Haakonsen, Michael Rape