Otubain 1: a non-canonical deubiquitinase with an emerging role in cancer

Matthew Saldana, Kacey VanderVorst, Anastasia L. Berg, Hyun Lee, Kermit L. Carraway

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


The ubiquitin system regulates diverse biological processes, many involved in cancer pathogenesis, by altering the ubiquitination state of protein substrates. This is accomplished by ubiquitin ligases and deubiquitinases (DUBs), which respectively add or remove ubiquitin from substrates to alter their stability, activity, localization and interactions. While lack of catalytic activity makes therapeutic targeting of ubiquitin ligases difficult, DUB inhibitors represent an active area of research and the identification of cancer-associated DUBs may lead to the development of novel therapeutics. A growing body of literature demonstrates that the DUB Otubain 1 (OTUB1) regulates many cancer-associated signaling pathways including MAPK, ERa, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), RHOa, mTORC1, FOXM1 and P53 to promote tumor cell survival, proliferation, invasiveness and therapeutic resistance. In addition, clinical studies have associated elevated OTUB1 expression with high grade, invasiveness and metastasis in several tumor types including lung, breast, ovarian, glioma, colon and gastric. Interestingly, in addition to catalytic DUB activity, OTUB1 displays a catalytic-independent, non-canonical activity where it inhibits the transfer of ubiquitin onto protein substrates by sequestration of E2 ubiquitin-conjugating enzymes. The aim of this review is to describe the canonical and non-canonical activities of OTUB1, summarize roles for OTUB1 in cancer-associated pathways and discuss its potential therapeutic targeting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1-R14
JournalEndocrine-Related Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • DUB inhibitor
  • E2 enzyme
  • metastasis
  • OTUB1
  • ubiquitin ligase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Oncology
  • Endocrinology
  • Cancer Research


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