5 years ago

SUMO-4: A novel functional candidate in the human placental protein SUMOylation machinery

Melanie C. Audette, Khrystyna Levytska, Sascha Drewlo, John C. Kingdom, Dora Baczyk

by Dora Baczyk, Melanie C. Audette, Sascha Drewlo, Khrystyna Levytska, John C. Kingdom


Small ubiquitin-like modifiers (SUMOs) conjugate to proteins post-translationally, thereby affecting target localization, activity and stability. Functional SUMO family members identified in the human placenta include SUMO-1 to SUMO-3, which are elevated in pre-eclampsia. Whether the fourth isoform, SUMO-4, plays a role in placental development and function remains unknown.


We tested the hypothesis that SUMO-4 is expressed in the human placenta and demonstrates altered SUMOylation in pre-eclamptic pregnancies.


SUMO-4 mRNA (qRT-PCR) and protein (Western blot and immunohistochemistry) were measured in Jar cells, BeWo cells, first trimester placental villous explants and placental tissues across normal gestation and in pre-eclampsia. SUMO-4 expression in response to oxidative stress (H2O2: 0, 0.1, 1 and 5mM), as well as, hypoxia-reperfusion (O2: 1%, 8% and 20%) was measured. Lastly, SUMO-4 binding (covalently vs. non-covalently) to target proteins was investigated.


SUMO-4 mRNA and protein were unchanged across gestation. SUMO-4 was present in the villous trophoblast layer throughout gestation. SUMO-4 mRNA expression and protein levels were increased ~2.2-fold and ~1.8-fold in pre-eclamptic placentas compared to age-matched controls, respectively (p<0.01). SUMO-4 mRNA and protein expression increased in Jars, BeWos and first trimester placental explants with 5mM H2O2 treatment, as well as with exposure to hypoxia-reperfusion. SUMO-1 to SUMO-3 did not show consistent trends across models. SUMO-4 hyper-SUMOylation was predominantly covalent in nature.


SUMO-4 is expressed in normal placental development. SUMO-4 expression was increased in pre-eclamptic placentas and in models of oxidative stress and hypoxic injury. These data suggests that SUMO-4 hyper-SUMOylation may be a potential post-translational mechanism in the stressed pre-eclamptic placenta.

Publisher URL: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article

DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0178056

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