Structural and functional validation of a highly specific Smurf2 inhibitor.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Protein Sci, p.e4885 (2023)


<p>Smurf1 and Smurf2 are two closely related members of the HECT (homologous to E6AP carboxy terminus) E3 ubiquitin ligase family and play important roles in the regulation of various cellular processes. Both were initially identified to regulate transforming growth factor-β and bone morphogenetic protein signaling pathways through regulating Smad protein stability and are now implicated in various pathological processes. Generally, E3 ligases, of which over 800 exist in humans, are ideal targets for inhibition as they determine substrate specificity; however, there are few inhibitors with the ability to precisely target a particular E3 ligase of interest. In this work, we explored a panel of ubiquitin variants (UbVs) that were previously identified to bind Smurf1 or Smurf2. In vitro binding and ubiquitination assays identified a highly specific Smurf2 inhibitor, UbV S2.4, which was able to inhibit ligase activity with high potency in the low nanomolar range. Orthologous cellular assays further demonstrated high specificity of UbV S2.4 towards Smurf2 and no cross-reactivity towards Smurf1. Structural analysis of UbV S2.4 in complex with Smurf2 revealed its mechanism of inhibition was through targeting the E2 binding site. In summary, we investigated several protein-based inhibitors of Smurf1 and Smurf2 and identified a highly specific Smurf2 inhibitor that disrupts the E2-E3 protein interaction interface. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.</p>