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Adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL) is a malignancy of mature T cells associated with chronic infection by human T-cell lymphotropic virus type-1 (HTLV-1). ATLL patients with aggressive subtypes have dismal outcomes. We demonstrate that ATLL cells co-opt an early checkpoint within the tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) pathway, resulting in survival advantage. This early checkpoint revolves around an interaction between the deubiquitinase CYLD and its target RIPK1. The status of RIPK1 K63-ubiquitination determines cell fate by creating either a prosurvival signal (ubiquitinated RIPK1) or a death signal (deubiquitinated RIPK1). In primary ATLL samples and in cell line models, an increased baseline level of CYLD phosphorylation was observed. We therefore tested the hypothesis that this modification of CYLD, which has been reported to inhibit its deubiquitinating function, leads to increased RIPK1 ubiquitination and thus provides a prosurvival signal to ATLL cells. CYLD phosphorylation can be pharmacologically reversed by IKK inhibitors, specifically by TBK1/IKKε and IKKβ inhibitors (MRT67307 and TPCA). Both of the IKK sub-families can phosphorylate CYLD, and the combination of MRT67307 and TPCA have a marked effect in reducing CYLD phosphorylation and triggering cell death. ATLL cells overexpressing a kinase-inactive TBK1 (TBK1-K38A) demonstrate lower CYLD phosphorylation and subsequently reduced proliferation. IKK blockade reactivates CYLD, as evidenced by the reduction in RIPK1 ubiquitination, which leads to the association of RIPK1 with the death-inducing signaling complex (DISC) to trigger cell death. In the absence of CYLD, RIPK1 ubiquitination remains elevated following IKK blockade and it does not associate with the DISC. SMAC mimetics can similarly disrupt CYLD phosphorylation and lead to ATLL cell death through reduction of RIPK1 ubiquitination, which is CYLD dependent. These results identify CYLD as a crucial regulator of ATLL survival and point to its role as a potential novel target for pharmacologic modification in this disease.


Xin Xu, Matko Kalac, Michael Markson, Mark Chan, Joshua D Brody, Govind Bhagat, Rosalind L Ang, Diana Legarda, Scott J Justus, Feng Liu, Qingshan Li, Huabao Xiong, Adrian T Ting. Reversal of CYLD phosphorylation as a novel therapeutic approach for adult T-cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATLL). Cell death & disease. 2020 Feb 05;11(2):94

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PMID: 32024820

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