The heavy metal cadmium induces valosin-containing protein (VCP)-mediated aggresome formation

Changcheng Song*, Zhen Xiao, Kunio Nagashima, Chou Chi H. Li, Stephen J. Lockett, Ren Ming Dai, Edward H. Cho, Thomas P. Conrads, Timothy D. Veenstra, Nancy H. Colburn, Qing Wang, Ji Ming Wang

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Cadmium (Cd2+) is a heavy metal ion known to have a long biological half-life in humans. Accumulating evidence shows that exposure to Cd2+ is associated with neurodegenerative diseases characterized by the retention of ubiquitinated and misfolded proteins in the lesions. Here, we report that Cd2+ directly induces the formation of protein inclusion bodies in cells. The protein inclusion body is an aggresome, a major organelle for collecting ubiquitinated or misfolded proteins. Our results show that aggresomes are enriched in the detergent-insoluble fraction of Cd2+-treated cell lysates. Proteomic analysis identified 145 proteins in the aggresome-enriched fractions. One of the proteins is the highly conserved valosin-containing protein (VCP), which has been shown to colocalize with aggresomes and bind ubiquitinated proteins through its N domain (#1-200). Our subsequent examination of VCP's role in the formation of aggresomes induced by Cd2+ indicates that the C-terminal tail (#780-806) of VCP interacts with histone deacetylase HDAC6, a mediator for aggresome formation, suggesting that VCP participates in transporting ubiquitinated proteins to aggresomes. This function of VCP is impaired by inhibition of the deacetylase activity of HDAC6 or by over-expression of VCP mutants that do not bind ubiquitinated proteins or HDAC6. Our results indicate that Cd2+ induces the formation of protein inclusion bodies by promoting the accumulation of ubiquitinated proteins in aggresomes through VCP and HDAC6. Our delineation of the role of VCP in regulating cell responses to ubiquitinated proteins has important implications for understanding Cd2+ toxicity and associated diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-363
Number of pages13
JournalToxicology and Applied Pharmacology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 May 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Aggresome
  • Cadmium
  • HDAC6
  • Ubiquitin proteasome system


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