Many human diseases result from aberrant activity of proteins at the cell surface, including cancer, hypertension, and autoimmune disorders. Normal cells control the abundance and activity of proteins at the cell surface through a variety of mechanisms that regulate both the delivery of proteins to the plasma membrane (PM) and removal of proteins from the PM. One of the primary removal mechanisms involves conjugation to ubiquitin, a modification that targets PM proteins for sorting into vesicles which are then internalized by endocytosis. I am interested in understanding the substrate targeting mechanisms that drive ubiquitin-mediated endocytosis and my long-term goal as an independent researcher is to determine how these mechanisms contribute to human disease. This research plan proposes to investigate the substrate targeting mechanisms of Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligases, which are critical for ubiquitin-mediated endocytosis and are implicated in many human diseases. While human Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligases remain poorly understood, more is known about the function of a Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligase in yeast called Rsp5. The critical role of Rsp5 as a regulator of ubiquitin-mediated endocytosis is well-established, in part due to the powerful experimental tools available in the yeast model system. The experimental strategy proposed here combines a detailed investigation of substrate targeting mechanisms of Rsp5 in yeast with a parallel strategy for the investigation of substrate targeting of WWP1, a Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligase linked to human breast cancer. This will involve the development of new experimental tools to facilitate the study of ubiquitin ligase substrate selection both in vitro and in vivo.
Aim 1 of this research plan outlines a strategy for determining how phosphorylation regulates the function of Rsp5 substrate adaptor proteins in yeast. This research has potentially significant implications for Nedd4 family proteins in humans because the phosphorylation sites are conserved in mammalian arrestin proteins, which are known to function as adaptors for Nedd4 ubiquitin ligases.
Aim 2 describes a strategy to investigate the inhibitory function of a class of Rsp5-interacting proteins. Although negative regulators of Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligases have not been described in humans, this research could lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies for activating or inactivating Nedd4 ubiquitin ligase function.
Aim 3 outlines a plan, influenced by mechanistic insights from Rsp5 in yeast, to identify the WWP1-mediated ubiquitination event that facilitates breast cancer cell growth. These experiments in mammalian cells will ultimately address the therapeutic potential of WWP1 as a molecular target for treatment of breast cancer.

Public Health Relevance

One of the hallmarks of various human cancers is the amplification of Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligases, although the mechanism by which they facilitate cancer cell growth is unknown. The research plan outlined here will investigate the substrate targeting mechanisms of Nedd4 family ubiquitin ligases and ultimately address their therapeutic potential as drug targets for treatment of cancer.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)
Research Transition Award (R00)
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Special Emphasis Panel (NSS)
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Gerratana, Barbara
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Vanderbilt University Medical Center
Anatomy/Cell Biology
Schools of Medicine
United States
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