The deubiquitinating enzyme USP2a regulates the p53 pathway by targeting Mdm2.
Mdm2 is an E3 ubiquitin ligase that promotes its own ubiquitination and also ubiquitination of the p53 tumour suppressor. In a bacterial two-hybrid screen, using Mdm2 as bait, we identified an Mdm2-interacting peptide that bears sequence similarity to the deubiquitinating enzyme USP2a. We have established that full-length USP2a associates with Mdm2 in cells where it can deubiquitinate Mdm2 while demonstrating no deubiquitinating activity towards p53. Ectopic expression of USP2a causes accumulation of Mdm2 in a dose-dependent manner and consequently promotes Mdm2-mediated p53 degradation. This differs from the behaviour of HAUSP, which deubiquitinates p53 in addition to Mdm2 and thus protects p53 from Mdm2-mediated degradation. We further demonstrate that suppression of endogenous USP2a destabilises Mdm2 and causes accumulation of p53 protein and activation of p53. Our data identify the deubiquitinating enzyme USP2a as a novel regulator of the p53 pathway that acts through its ability to selectively target Mdm2.