pTINCR microprotein promotes epithelial differentiation and suppresses tumor growth through CDC42 SUMOylation and activation


  • O. Boix
  • M. Martinez
  • S. Vidal
  • M. Giménez-Alejandre
  • L. Palenzuela
  • L. Lorenzo-Sanz
  • L. Quevedo
  • O. Moscoso
  • J. Ruiz-Orera
  • P. Ximénez-Embún
  • N. Ciriaco
  • P. Nuciforo
  • C. Stephan-Otto Attolini
  • M.M. Albà
  • J. Muñoz
  • T.V. Tian
  • I. Varela
  • A. Vivancos
  • S. Ramón Y Cajal
  • P. Muñoz
  • C. Rivas
  • M. Abad


  • Nature Communications


  • Nat Commun 13 (1): 6840


  • The human transcriptome contains thousands of small open reading frames (sORFs) that encode microproteins whose functions remain largely unexplored. Here, we show that TINCR lncRNA encodes pTINCR, an evolutionary conserved ubiquitin-like protein (UBL) expressed in many epithelia and upregulated upon differentiation and under cellular stress. By gain- and loss-of-function studies, we demonstrate that pTINCR is a key inducer of epithelial differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Interestingly, low expression of TINCR associates with worse prognosis in several epithelial cancers, and pTINCR overexpression reduces malignancy in patient-derived xenografts. At the molecular level, pTINCR binds to SUMO through its SUMO interacting motif (SIM) and to CDC42, a Rho-GTPase critical for actin cytoskeleton remodeling and epithelial differentiation. Moreover, pTINCR increases CDC42 SUMOylation and promotes its activation, triggering a pro-differentiation cascade. Our findings suggest that the microproteome is a source of new regulators of cell identity relevant for cancer.