The mesenchymal (MES) subtype of glioblastoma (GBM) stem cells (GSCs) represents a subpopulation of cancer cells that are notorious for their highly aggressive nature and resistance to conventional therapy. Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A3 (ALDH1A3) has been recently suggested as a key determinant for the maintenance of MES features of GSCs. However, the mechanisms underpinning aberrant ALDH1A3 expression remain elusive. Here, we identified ubiquitin-specific protease 9X (USP9X) as a bona fide deubiquitinase of ALDH1A3 in MES GSCs. USP9X interacted with, depolyubiquitylated, and stabilized ALDH1A3. Moreover, we showed that FACS-sorted USP9Xhi cells were enriched for MES GSCs with high ALDH1A3 activity and potent tumorigenic capacity. Depletion of USP9X markedly downregulated ALDH1A3, resulting in a loss of self-renewal and tumorigenic capacity of MES GSCs, which could be largely rescued by ectopic expression of ALDH1A3. Furthermore, we demonstrated that the USP9X inhibitor WP1130 induced ALDH1A3 degradation and showed marked therapeutic efficacy in MES GSC–derived orthotopic xenograft models. Additionally, USP9X strongly correlated with ALDH1A3 expression in primary human GBM samples and had a prognostic value for patients with the MES subgroup. Collectively, our findings unveil USP9X as a key deubiquitinase for ALDH1A3 protein stabilization and a potential target for GSC-directed therapy.
Zhengxin Chen, Hong-Wei Wang, Shuai Wang, Ligang Fan, Shuang Feng, Xiaomin Cai, Chenghao Peng, Xiaoting Wu, Jiacheng Lu, Dan Chen, Yuanyuan Chen, Wenting Wu, Daru Lu, Ning Liu, Yongping You, Huibo Wang
USP9X shows a positive correlation with ALDH1A3 protein levels and is associated with poor survival of ALDH1A3hi MES GBMs.