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The product of the tumor suppressor gene phosphate and tensin homolog on chromosome ten (PTEN) is a lipid and protein phosphatase that regulates important cellular processes, including growth, survival, and metabolism (see the Perspective by Leslie and Brunton). Though PTEN is best known for effects on the phosphatidylnositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway, the PTEN protein is also found in the nucleus. Bassi et al. (p. 395) found that PTEN's presence in the nucleus was regulated in response to covalent modification of the protein by SUMOylation and phosphorylation. Cells lacking nuclear PTEN showed increased sensitivity to DNA damage and underwent cell death if the PI3K pathway was also inhibited. Hopkins et al. (p. 399, published online 6 June) discovered an alternative translation start site in human PTEN messenger RNA that allowed expression of a protein, PTEN-Long, with about 170 extra amino acids. The unusual enzyme was released from cells and then taken up into other cells. In a mouse tumor model, uptake of the enzyme inhibited the PI3K pathway and inhibited tumor growth.
Loss of function of the phosphatase and tensin homolog deleted on chromosome 10 (PTEN) tumor suppressor gene is associated with many human cancers. In the cytoplasm, PTEN antagonizes the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K) signaling pathway. PTEN also accumulates in the nucleus, where its function remains poorly understood. We demonstrate that SUMOylation (SUMO, small ubiquitin-like modifier) of PTEN controls its nuclear localization. In cells exposed to genotoxic stress, SUMO-PTEN was rapidly excluded from the nucleus dependent on the protein kinase ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM). Cells lacking nuclear PTEN were hypersensitive to DNA damage, whereas PTEN-deficient cells were susceptible to killing by a combination of genotoxic stress and a small-molecule PI3K inhibitor both in vitro and in vivo. Our findings may have implications for individualized therapy for patients with PTEN-deficient tumors.