Pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors (PanNET) are a group of rare sporadic malignant tumors in the pancreas. MEN1 is the most frequently mutated gene in PanNETs. The MEN1-encoded protein is a typical tumor suppressor that forms a complex with epigenetic and transcription factors and is an attractive target for therapeutic interventions for patients with PanNET. A better understanding of the regulation of MEN1 protein expression in PanNETs could identify strategies for targeting MEN1. Here, we found that the neddylation pathway and DCAF7-mediated ubiquitination regulated MEN1 protein expression. Increased expression of members of the neddylation pathway and DCAF7 was found in PanNET tissues compared with paired-adjacent tissues and was associated with poor prognosis in patients with PanNET. Suppression of neddylation using the neddylation inhibitor MLN4924 or RNA interference significantly induced MEN1 accumulation and repressed cancer-related malignant phenotypes. CUL4B and DCAF7 promoted MEN1 degradation by binding and catalyzing its ubiquitination. In PanNET cells resistant to everolimus, a pharmacologic mTOR inhibitor widely used for advanced PanNET patient treatment, the downregulation of DCAF7 expression overcame resistance and synergized with everolimus to suppress mTOR activation and to inhibit cancer cell growth. The effects of DCAF7 loss could be counteracted by the simultaneous knockdown of MEN1 both in vitro and in vivo. The inverse correlation between DCAF7 and MEN1 was further validated in clinical specimens. This study revealed that the posttranslational control of MEN1 expression in PanNET is mediated by neddylation and the CUL4B–DCAF7 axis and identifies potential therapeutic targets in patients with MEN1-associated PanNET.

Significance:

Identification of neddylation and ubiquitination pathways that regulate MEN1 protein stability provides an opportunity for therapeutic interventions for treating patients with pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.

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