SUMO paralogue-specific functions revealed through systematic analysis of human knockout cell lines and gene expression data

Danielle Bouchard, Wei Wang, Wei Chih Yang, Shuying He, Anthony Garcia, Michael J. Matunis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The small ubiquitin-related modifiers (SUMOs) regulate nearly every aspect of cellular function, from gene expression in the nucleus to ion transport at the plasma membrane. In humans, the SUMO pathway has five SUMO paralogues with sequence homologies that range from 45% to 97%. SUMO1 and SUMO2 are the most distantly related paralogues and also the best studied. To what extent SUMO1, SUMO2, and the other paralogues impart unique and nonredundant effects on cellular functions, however, has not been systematically examined and is therefore not fully understood. For instance, knockout studies in mice have revealed conflicting requirements for the paralogues during development and studies in cell culture have relied largely on transient paralogue overexpression or knockdown. To address the existing gap in understanding, we first analyzed SUMO paralogue gene expression levels in normal human tissues and found unique patterns of SUMO1-3 expression across 30 tissue types, suggesting paralogue-specific functions in adult human tissues. To systematically identify and characterize unique and nonredundant functions of the SUMO paralogues in human cells, we next used CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out SUMO1 and SUMO2 expression in osteosarcoma (U2OS) cells. Analysis of these knockout cell lines revealed essential functions for SUMO1 and SUMO2 in regulating cellular morphology, promyelocytic leukemia (PML) nuclear body structure, responses to proteotoxic and genotoxic stress, and control of gene expression. Collectively, our findings reveal nonredundant regulatory roles for SUMO1 and SUMO2 in controlling essential cellular processes and provide a basis for more precise SUMO-targeting therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1849-1866
Number of pages18
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 1 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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