Exon 3 of the NUMB Gene Emerged in the Chordate Lineage Coopting the NUMB Protein to the Regulation of MDM2

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MDM2 regulates a variety of cellular processes through its dual protein:protein interaction and ubiquitin ligase activities. One major function of MDM2 is to bind and ubiquitinate P53, thereby regulating its proteasomal degradation. This function is in turn controlled by the cell fate determinant NUMB, which binds to and inhibits MDM2 via a short stretch of 11 amino acids, contained in its phosphotyrosine-binding (PTB) domain, encoded by exon 3 of the NUMB gene. The NUMB-MDM2-P53 circuitry is relevant to the specification of the stem cell fate and its subversion has been shown to be causal in breast cancer leading to the emergence of cancer stem cells. While extensive work on the evolutionary aspects of the MDM2/P53 circuitry has provided hints as to how these two proteins have evolved together to maintain conserved and linked functions, little is known about the evolution of the NUMB gene and, in particular, how it developed the ability to regulate MDM2 function. Here, we show that NUMB is a metazoan gene, which acquired exon 3 in the common ancestor of the Chordate lineage, first being present in the Cephalochordate and Tunicate subphyla, but absent in invertebrates. We provide experimental evidence showing that since its emergence, exon 3 conferred to the PTB domain of NUMB the ability to bind and to regulate MDM2 functions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3359-3367
Number of pages9
JournalG3 (Bethesda, Md.)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 7 2019


  • chordate evolution
  • exon gain
  • MDM2
  • NUMB
  • PTB domain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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