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We performed a small interfering RNA screen to identify targets for cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) therapy in the ubiquitin/ubiquitin-like system. We provide evidence for selective anti-cSCC activity of knockdown of the E3 ubiquitin ligase MARCH4, the ATPase p97/VCP, the deubiquitinating enzyme USP8, the cullin-RING ligase (CRL) 4 substrate receptor CDT2/DTL, and components of the anaphase-promoting complex/cyclosome (APC/C). Specifically attenuating CRL4 CDT2 by CDT2 knockdown can be more potent in killing cSCC cells than targeting CRLs or CRL4s in general by RBX1 or DDB1 depletion. Suppression of the APC/C or forced APC/C activation by targeting its repressor EMI1 are both potential therapeutic approaches. We observed that cSCC cells can be selectively killed by small-molecule inhibitors of USP8 (DUBs-IN-3/compound 22c) and the NEDD8 E1 activating enzyme/CRLs (MLN4924/pevonedistat). A substantial proportion of cSCC cell lines are very highly MLN4924-sensitive. Pathways that respond to defects in proteostasis are involved in the anti-cSCC activity of p97 suppression. Targeting USP8 can reduce the expression of growth factor receptors that participate in cSCC development. EMI1 and CDT2 depletion can selectively cause DNA re-replication and DNA damage in cSCC cells.
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