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Structural and functional characterization of ubiquitin variant inhibitors for the JAMM-family deubiquitinases STAMBP and STAMBPL1

By Yusong Guo, Qi Liu, Evan Mallette, Cody Caba, Feng Hou, Julia Fux, Gabriel LaPlante, Aiping Dong, Qi Zhang, Hui Zheng, Yufeng Tong, Wei Zhang

Posted 17 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.16.452720

Ubiquitination is one of the most crucial post-translational protein modifications involved in a myriad of biological pathways. This process is reversed by deubiquitinases (DUBs) that deconjugate the ubiquitin (Ub) moiety or poly-Ub chains from substrates. In the past decade, tremendous efforts have been focused on targeting DUBs for drug discovery. However, most chemical compounds with inhibitory activity for DUBs suffer from mild potency and low selectivity. To overcome these obstacles, we developed a phage display-based protein engineering strategy for generating Ub variant (UbV) inhibitors and have previously successfully applied it to the Ub-specific protease (USP) family of cysteine proteases. In this work, we leveraged the UbV platform to target STAMBP, a member of the JAB1/MPN/MOV34 (JAMM) metalloprotease family of DUB enzymes. We identified two UbVs (UbVSP.1 and UbVSP.3) that bind to STAMBP with high affinity but differ in their selectivity for the closely related paralog STAMBPL1. We determined the STAMBPL1-UbVSP.1 complex structure by X-ray crystallography, revealing hotspots of the tight JAMM-UbV interaction. Finally, we show that UbVSP.1 and UbVSP.3 are potent inhibitors of the STAMBP isopeptidase activity, far exceeding the reported small-molecule inhibitor BC-1471. This work demonstrates the UbV technology is suitable to develop tool molecules for metalloproteases. These tools can be used to understand the cellular function of JAMM family DUBs.

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