Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type






First Advisor

Dr. Kevin D. Sarge


Small ubiquitin-like modifier (SUMO) regulates numerous biological functions. In a previous study we found that sumoylation of HSF2 is involved in regulating HSF2 bookmarking function, but the mechanism that mediates this regulation was unknown. The results in my work support the intriguing hypothesis that polycomb protein, Mel-18, actually functions as an anti-SUMO E3 protein, interacting both with HSF2 and the SUMO E2 Ubc9, but acting to inhibit Ubc9 activity and thereby decrease sumoylation of the HSF2.

This study also suggested that Mel-18 negatively regulates the sumoylation of other cellular proteins, and we extend its targets to RanGAP1 protein. The results also show that RanGAP1 sumoylation is decreased during mitosis, and that this is associated with increased interaction between RanGAP1 and Mel-18. Previous studies showed little evidence of anti-SUMO E3 proteins, however, my study, taken together, found Mel-18 actually functions as a novel anti-SUMO E3 protein, interacting both with substrates and the SUMO E2 Ubc9 but acting to inhibit Ubc9 activity to decrease sumoylation of target proteins and also provide an explanation for how mitotic HSF2/RanGAP1 sumoylation is regulated. This finding also gives a clue for a future study direction in Mel-18 as a tumor suppressor: the anti-SUMO E3 function.

Additionally, we identify a single-nucleotide polymorphism in another human PcG protein, Bmi-1, that changes a cysteine residue within its RING domain, cysteine 18, to a tyrosine. This C18Y polymorphism is associated with a significant decrease in levels of the Bmi-1 protein. Furthermore, the C18Y Bmi-1 protein exhibits a very high level of ubiquitination compared to wild-type Bmi-1, suggesting that that the low levels of this form of Bmi-1 are due to its destruction by the ubiquitin-proteasome system. Consistent with this hypothesis, treatment of cells with the proteasome inhibitor MG-132 results in a significant increase in levels of C18Y Bmi-1. This is the first example of a polymorphism in human Bmi- 1 that reduces levels of this important protein.