The Forkhead box O (FOXO) class of transcription factors are involved in the regulation of several cellular responses including cell cycle progression and apoptosis. Furthermore, in model organisms FOXOs act as tumor suppressors and affect aging. Previously, we noted that FOXOs and p53 are remarkably similar within their spectrum of regulatory proteins. For example, the de-ubiquitinating enzyme USP7 removes ubiquitin from both FOXO and p53. However, Skp2 has been identified as E3 ligase for FOXO1, whereas Mdm2 is the prime E3 ligase for p53.
Here we provide evidence that Mdm2 acts as an E3 ligase for FOXO as well. In vitro incubation of Mdm2 and FOXO results in ATP-dependent (multi)mono-ubiquitination of FOXO similar to p53. Furthermore, in vivo co-expression of Mdm2 and FOXO induces FOXO mono-ubiquitination and consistent with this result, siRNA-mediated depletion of Mdm2 inhibits mono-ubiquitination of FOXO induced by hydrogen peroxide. Regulation of FOXO ubiquitination by Mdm2 is likely to be direct since Mdm2 and FOXO co-immunoprecipitate. In addition, Mdm2-mediated ubiquitination regulates FOXO transcriptional activity.
These data identify Mdm2 as a novel E3 ligase for FOXOs and extend the analogous mode of regulation between FOXO and p53.