Myc is overexpressed in many cancers as a result of gene rearrangement or amplification, but coding sequence changes which cluster in the N-terminal transactivation domain also appear to play a role in tumour progression. The prototypic v-Myc gene of MC29 virus differs from avian c-Myc by a series of mutations, including a change at a regulatory phosphorylation site within the mutational hotspot (thr-61) which is known to potentiate transformation in vitro. We now show that the mutation at thr-61 stabilizes the v-Myc protein (turnover difference) and that this single mutation is both necessary and sufficient for the phenotype. A major involvement of the proteasome in Myc degradation was confirmed, but surprisingly, a dilysine motif adjacent to thr-61 proved not to be the ubiquitin target. Two other v-Myc genes which carry a mutation at thr-61 (avian MH2) or a large deletion encompassing this domain (feline T17) were found to be stabilized to a similar extent as MC29, showing that stabilization is a common feature of independently derived Myc oncogenes. These results suggest a common selective process in the genesis of these three viral oncoproteins and a mechanistic link with Jun, Fos and Myb oncoproteins which are also stabilized relative to their cellular counterparts
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