Keratin hypersumoylation alters filament dynamics and is a marker for human liver disease and keratin mutation

Natasha T. Snider, Sujith V.W. Weerasinghe, Jorge A. Iñiguez-Lluhí, Harald Herrmann, M. Bishr Omary

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

61 Scopus citations


Keratin polypeptide 8 (K8) associates noncovalently with its partners K18 and/or K19 to form the intermediate filament cytoskeleton of hepatocytes and other simple-type epithelial cells. Human K8, K18, and K19 variants predispose to liver disease, whereas site-specific keratin phosphorylation confers hepatoprotection. Because stress-induced protein phosphorylation regulates sumoylation, we hypothesized that keratins are sumoylated in an injury-dependent manner and that keratin sumoylation is an important regulatory modification. We demonstrate that K8/K18/K19, epidermal keratins, and vimentin are sumoylated in vitro. Upon transfection, K8, K18, and K19 are modified by poly-SUMO-2/3 chains on Lys-285/Lys- 364 (K8), Lys-207/Lys-372 (K18), and Lys-208 (K19). Sumoylation affects filament organization and stimulus-induced keratin solubility and is partially inhibited upon mutation of one of three known K8 phosphorylation sites. Extensive sumoylation occurs in cells transfected with individual K8, K18, or K19 but is limited upon heterodimerization (K8/K18 or K8/K19) in the absence of stress. In contrast, keratin sumoylation is significantly augmented in cells and tissues during apoptosis, oxidative stress, and phosphatase inhibition. Poly-SUMO-2/3 conjugates are present in chronically injured but not normal, human, and mouse livers along with polyubiquitinated and large insoluble keratin-containing complexes. Notably, common human K8 liver disease-associated variants trigger keratin hypersumoylation with consequent diminished solubility. In contrast, modest sumoylation of wild type K8 promotes solubility. Hence, conformational changes induced by keratin natural mutations and extensive tissue injury result in K8/ K18/K19 hypersumoylation, which retains keratins in an insoluble compartment, thereby limiting their cytoprotective function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2273-2284
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 21 2011
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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