DNA damage promotes TMPRSS2-ERG oncoprotein destruction and prostate cancer suppression via signaling converged by GSK3β and WEE1. Hong et al
TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion occurs in approximately 50% of prostate cancer (PCa) and the fusion product is a key driver of prostate oncogenesis. However, how to leverage cellular signaling to ablate TMPRSS2-ERG oncoprotein for PCa treatment remains elusive. Here, we demonstrate that DNA damage induces proteasomal degradation of wild-type ERG and TMPRSS2-ERG oncoprotein through ERG threonine-187 and tyrosine-190 phosphorylation mediated by GSK3β and WEE1, respectively. The dual phosphorylation triggers ERG recognition and degradation by the E3 ubiquitin ligase FBW7 in a manner independent of a canonical degron. DNA damage-induced TMPRSS2-ERG degradation was abolished by cancer-associated PTEN deletion or GSK3β inactivation. Blockade of DNA damage-induced TMPRSS2-ERG oncoprotein degradation causes chemotherapy-resistant growth of fusion-positive PCa cells in culture and in mice. Our findings uncover a previously unrecognized TMPRSS2-ERG protein destruction mechanism and demonstrate that intact PTEN and GSK3β signaling are essential for effective targeting of ERG protein by genotoxic therapeutics in fusion-positive PCa.