The ERK1/2 signaling pathway is critical in organismal development and tissue morphogenesis. Deregulation of this pathway leads to congenital abnormalities with severe developmental dysmorphisms. The core ERK1/2 cascade relies on scaffold proteins such as Shoc2 to guide and fine-tune its signals. Mutations in shoc2 lead to the development of the pathology termed Noonan-like Syndrome with Loose Anagen Hair (NSLAH). However, the mechanisms underlying the functions of Shoc2 and its contributions to disease progression remain unclear.

Here we show that ERK1/2 pathway activation triggers the interaction of Shoc2 with the ubiquitin-specific protease USP7. We identify that in the Shoc2 module USP7 functions as a molecular “switch” that controls the E3 ligase HUWE1 and the HUWE1-induced regulatory feedback loop. We also demonstrate that disruption of Shoc2-USP7 binding leads to aberrant activation of the Shoc2-ERK1/2 axis. Importantly, our studies reveal a possible role for USP7 in the pathogenic mechanisms underlying NSLAH extending our understanding of how ubiquitin-specific proteases regulate intracellular signaling.

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