CONTEXT: Cushing disease (CD) is a rare disorder with severe sequels and incompletely understood pathogenesis. The underlying corticotroph adenomas harbor frequently somatic mutations in the ubiquitin-specific peptidase 8 (USP8) gene. These mutations render USP8 hyperactive and prevent client proteins from degradation.
OBJECTIVE: To investigate the impact of USP8 mutations on proteins deregulated in CD.
DESIGN: One hundred eight pituitary adenomas (75 corticotroph [58 USP8 wild type (WT) and 17 USP8 mutated], 14 somatotroph, and 19 nonfunctioning) were investigated by immunohistochemistry. All evaluated proteins [USP8, arginine vasopressin receptor 1b and 2, corticotropin-releasing hormone receptor, cAMP response element-binding protein (CREB), p27/kip1, cyclin E, heat shock protein 90 (HSP90), orphan nuclear receptor 4, epidermal growth factor receptor, histone deacetylase 2, glucocorticoid receptor, cyclin-dependent kinase 5 and Abelson murine leukemia viral oncogene homolog 1 enzyme substrate 1] were known to be deregulated in CD. Furthermore, AtT20 cells were transfected with USP8 to investigate the expression of possible downstream proteins by immunoblot.
RESULTS: Whereas most of the investigated proteins were not differentially expressed, the cell-cycle inhibitor p27 was significantly reduced in USP8 mutated corticotroph adenoma (H-score 2.0 ± 1.0 vs 1.1 ± 1.1 in WT adenomas; P = 0.004). In contrast, the chaperone HSP90 was expressed higher (0.5 ± 0.4 vs 0.2 ± 0.4; P = 0.29), and the phosphorylation of the transcription factor CREB was increased in USP8 mutated adenomas (1.30.5 ± 0.40.9 vs 0.70.5 ± 0.40.7; P = 0.014). Accordingly, AtT20 cells transfected with the USP8 P720R mutant had higher phosphorylated CREB (pCREB) levels than WT transfected cells (1.3 ± 0.14 vs 1 ± 0.23; P = 0.13).
CONCLUSIONS: We could demonstrate that USP8 mutations are associated with deregulation of p27/kip1, HSP90, and pCREB. These findings suggest that these proteins are direct or indirect clients of USP8 and could therefore be potential targets for therapeutic approaches in patients with CD.