2015 Volume 40 Issue 6 Pages 901-908
Cadmium (Cd) is a toxic heavy metal with a long half-life in humans. It causes disorders of various tissue systems, including the kidney, and is associated with protein aggregation. Our previous study demonstrated Cd-induced suppression of the UBE2D gene family, one of the ubiquitin-conjugating enzyme families. However, the precise role of ubiquitin-coding genes in Cd toxicity remains to be understood. In this study, we investigated the effect of Cd on expression of the ubiquitin-coding genes UBB, UBC, UBA80, and UBA52 in HK-2 human proximal tubular cells. Prior to the appearance of Cd toxicity, the UBB, UBC, and UBA80 expression levels increased following Cd treatment. Knockdown of UBB by siRNA transfection significantly decreased Cd cytotoxicity. Notably, Cd induces ubiquitinated protein levels in HK-2 cells, and knockdown of UBB blocked this process. These results suggest that UBB is involved in Cd-induced increase of protein ubiquitination, and that accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins through increased UBB expression may contribute to Cd toxicity in HK-2 cells.