Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Hui-Kuan Lin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Xin Lin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Mong-Hong Lee, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Dos D. Sarbassov, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bryant G. Darnay, Ph.D.


Akt (also known as protein kinase B) serves a central regulator in PI3K/Akt signaling pathways to regulate numerous physiological functions including cell proliferation, survival and metabolism. Akt activation requires the binding of Akt to phospholipid PIP3 on the plasma membrane and subsequent phosphorylation of Akt by its kinases. Growth factor-mediated membrane recruitment of Akt is a crucial step for Akt activation. However, the mechanism of Akt membrane translocation is unclear. Protein ubiquitination is a significant posttranslational modification that controls many biological functions such as protein trafficking and signaling activation. Therefore, we hypothesize that ubiquitination may be involved in Akt signaling activation.

We have demonstrated that Akt could be conjugated with non-proteolytic K63-linked ubiquitination by TRAF6 ubiquitin E3 ligase. This modification on Akt was required for membrane recruitment, phosphorylation and activation of Akt in response to growth factor stimulation. The human cancer-associated Akt E17K mutant exhibited an increase in K63-linked ubiquitination, which contributes to the enrichment of membrane recruitment and phosphorylation of Akt. Thus, we conclude that K63-linked ubiquitination is a critical step for oncogenic Akt activation and also involved in human cancer development.

Notably, the process of protein ubiquitination can be reversed by deubiquitinating enzymes (DUBs), which play a critical role to terminate signaling activation induced by ubiquitination. To further investigate how ubiquitination cycles regulate Akt activation, we have identified that CYLD as a DUB for Akt, and CYLD inhibited growth factor-induced ubiquitination and activation of Akt. Under serum-depletion condition, CYLD interacts with Akt and keep Akt under inactive state by directly removing K63-linked ubiquitination of Akt. CYLD disassociates with Akt upon growth factor stimulation, thereby allowing E3 ligases to induce ubiquitination and activation of Akt. We also demonstrated that CYLD deficiency promoted cancer cell proliferation, survival, glucose metabolism and human prostate cancer development. Therefore, we conclude that CYLD plays a critical role for negatively regulating Akt signaling activation through deubiquitination of Akt.

In summary, this study delineated the important mechanism of cycles of ubiquitination and deubiquitination of Akt in regulating membrane translocation and activation of Akt, and TRAF6 and CYLD as central switches for these processes.


Ubiquitination, E3 ligase, TRAF6, PKB/Akt, deubiquitination, deubiquitinase, CYLD, tumorigenesis, membrane translocation, protein kinase activation