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Despite recent advances in our understanding of the disease, glioblastoma (GB) continues to have limited treatment options and carries a dismal prognosis for patients. Efforts to stratify this heterogeneous malignancy using molecular classifiers identified frequent alterations in targetable proteins belonging to several pathways including the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling pathways. However, these findings have failed to improve clinical outcomes for patients. In almost all cases, GB becomes refractory to standard-of-care therapy, and recent evidence suggests that disease recurrence may be associated with a subpopulation of cells known as glioma stem cells (GSCs). Therefore, there remains a significant unmet need for novel therapeutic strategies. E3 ubiquitin ligases are a family of >700 proteins that conjugate ubiquitin to target proteins, resulting in an array of cellular responses, including DNA repair, pro-survival signalling and protein degradation. Ubiquitin modifications on target proteins are diverse, ranging from mono-ubiquitination through to the formation of polyubiquitin chains and mixed chains. The specificity in substrate tagging and chain elongation is dictated by E3 ubiquitin ligases, which have essential regulatory roles in multiple aspects of brain cancer pathogenesis. In this review, we begin by briefly summarising the histological and molecular classification of GB. We comprehensively describe the roles of E3 ubiquitin ligases in RTK and MAPK, as well as other, commonly altered, oncogenic and tumour suppressive signalling pathways in GB. We also describe the role of E3 ligases in maintaining glioma stem cell populations and their function in promoting resistance to ionizing radiation (IR) and chemotherapy. Finally, we consider how our knowledge of E3 ligase biology may be used for future therapeutic interventions in GB, including the use of blood-brain barrier permeable proteolysis targeting chimeras (PROTACs).

Original publication




Journal article


Cell Death Differ

Publication Date





522 - 537


Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, Brain Neoplasms, Glioblastoma, Humans, Polyubiquitin, Protein Binding, Proteolysis, Signal Transduction, Ubiquitin-Protein Ligases, Ubiquitination