RAC1B induces SMAD7 via USP26 to suppress TGFβ1-dependent cell migration in mesenchymal-subtype carcinoma cells

Hendrik Ungefroren*, Anuradha Kumarasinghe, Melina Musfeldt, Christian Fiedler, Hendrik Lehnert, Jens Uwe Marquardt

*Corresponding author for this work
2 Citations (Scopus)


The small GTPase RAC1B has been shown to act as a powerful inhibitor of the transforming growth factor (TGF)β type I receptor ALK5 and TGFβ1/ALK5-induced epithelial– mesenchymal transition and cell motility. However, the precise mechanism has remained elusive. RNAi-mediated knockdown of RAC1B in the pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC)-derived cell line Panc1 failed to alter transcriptional activity from a transfected ALK5 promoter–reporter construct. In contrast, pharmacological inhibition of the proteasome decreased the abundance of ALK5 protein in cell lines of the mesenchymal subtype (Panc1, IMIM-PC-1, and breast cancer MDA-MB-231), but not in a PDAC cell line of the epithelial subtype (Colo357). Here, we focused on the inhibitory Smad protein, SMAD7, as a potential candidate for RAC1B-mediated inhibition of cell migration. In Panc1 cells devoid of RAC1B, SMAD7 protein was dramatically reduced and these cells were refractory to TGFβ1-induced upregulation of SMAD7 protein but not mRNA expression. Intriguingly, RNAi-mediated knockdown or ectopic overexpression of SMAD7 in Panc1 cells up-or downregulated, respectively, ALK5 protein expression and mimicked the suppressive effect of RAC1B on TGFβ/SMAD3-dependent transcriptional activity, target gene expression and cell migration. Transfection of SMAD7 was further able to partially rescue cells from the RAC1B knockdown-mediated increase in migratory properties. Conversely, knockdown of SMAD7 was able to partially rescue Panc1 and MDA-MB-231 cells from the antimigratory effect of ectopically expressed RAC1B. Finally, we demonstrate that RAC1B upregulation of SMAD7 protein requires intermittent transcriptional induction of the deubiquitinating enzyme USP26. Our data suggest that RAC1B induces SMAD7 by promoting its deubiquitination and establishes this Smad as one of RAC1B’s downstream effectors in negative regulation of ALK5 and TGFβ1-induced cell migration in mesenchymal-type carcinoma cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1545
Issue number6
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 06.2020


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