SOCS (suppressors of cytokine signaling) proteins are negative regulators of cytokine signaling that function primarily at the receptor level. Remarkably, in vitro and in vivo observations revealed both inhibitory and stimulatory effects of SOCS2 on growth hormone signaling, suggesting an additional regulatory level. In this study, we examined the possibility of direct cross-modulation between SOCS proteins and found that SOCS2 could interfere with the inhibitory actions of other SOCS proteins in growth hormone, interferon, and leptin signaling. This SOCS2 effect was SOCS box-dependent, required recruitment of the elongin BC complex, and coincided with degradation of target SOCS proteins. Detailed mammalian protein-protein interaction trap (MAPPIT) analysis indicated that SOCS2 can interact with all members of the SOCS family. SOCS2 may thus function as a molecular bridge between a ubiquitin-protein isopeptide ligase complex and SOCS proteins, targeting them for proteasomal turnover. We furthermore extended these observations to SOCS6 and SOCS7. Our findings point to a unique regulatory role for SOCS2, SOCS6, and SOCS7 within the SOCS family and provide an explanation for the unexpected phenotypes observed in SOCS2 and SOCS6 transgenic mice.
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