Structural studies of UBXN2A and mortalin interaction and the putative role of silenced UBXN2A in preventing response to chemotherapy

Sanam Sane, Ammara Abdullah, Morgan E. Nelson, Hongmin Wang, Subhash C. Chauhan, Samuel S. Newton, Khosrow Rezvani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Overexpression of the oncoprotein mortalin in cancer cells and its protein partners enables mortalin to promote multiple oncogenic signaling pathways and effectively antagonize chemotherapy-induced cell death. A UBX-domain-containing protein, UBXN2A, acts as a potential mortalin inhibitor. This current study determines whether UBXN2A effectively binds to and occupies mortalin’s binding pocket, resulting in a direct improvement in the tumor’s sensitivity to chemotherapy. Molecular modeling of human mortalin’s binding pocket and its binding to the SEP domain of UBXN2A followed by yeast two-hybrid and His-tag pull-down assays revealed that three amino acids (PRO442, ILE558, and LYS555) within the substrate-binding domain of mortalin are crucial for UBXN2A binding to mortalin. As revealed by chase experiments in the presence of cycloheximide, overexpression of UBXN2A seems to interfere with the mortalin-CHIP E3 ubiquitin ligase and consequently suppresses the C‐terminus of the HSC70‐interacting protein (CHIP)-mediated destabilization of p53, resulting in its stabilization in the cytoplasm and upregulation in the nucleus. Overexpression of UBXN2A causes a significant inhibition of cell proliferation and the migration of colon cancer cells. We silenced UBXN2A in the human osteosarcoma U2OS cell line, an enriched mortalin cancer cell, followed by a clinical dosage of the chemotherapeutic agent 5-fluorouracil (5-FU). The UBXN2A knockout U2OS cells revealed that UBXNA is essential for the cytotoxic effect achieved by 5-FU. UBXN2A overexpression markedly increased the apoptotic response of U2OS cells to the 5-FU. In addition, silencing of UBXN2A protein suppresses apoptosis enhanced by UBXN2A overexpression in U2OS. The knowledge gained from this study provides insights into the mechanistic role of UBXN2A as a potent mortalin inhibitor and as a potential chemotherapy sensitizer for clinical application.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-326
Number of pages14
JournalCell Stress and Chaperones
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Chemotherapy
  • Colon cancer
  • Mortalin
  • Osteosarcoma
  • UBXN2A
  • p53

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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