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Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2001 Dec;952:13-22.

Cyclin proteolysis as a retinoid cancer prevention mechanism.

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  • 1Norris Cotton Cancer Center and Department of Medicine, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire 03756, USA.


The retinoids, natural and synthetic derivatives of vitamin A, are active in cancer therapy and prevention. Their biological effects are mediated through ligand-dependent interactions with retinoid receptors that associate with specific co-regulators. A better understanding of retinoid chemopreventive mechanisms is needed. Our prior work revealed that all-trans-retinoic acid (RA) prevented tobacco-specific carcinogenic transformation of cultured human bronchial epithelial cells. RA signaled G1 arrest that permitted repair of genomic DNA damage caused by these carcinogens. RA triggered G1 arrest at least partly through proteasome-dependent degradation of cyclin D1. Proteasomal inhibitors blocked RA-mediated cyclin D1 degradation. To confirm that a specific proteolysis pathway was induced by RA-treatment, a degradation assay was established using in vitro translated cyclin D1 and cellular extracts from RA-treated or untreated human bronchial epithelial cells. Incubation of RA-treated but not the control cellular extracts with in vitro translated cyclin D1 led to cyclin degradation. This degradation depended on the PEST domain of cyclin D1, implicating ubiquitination in this retinoid degradation. Retinoid receptor selective agonists demonstrated that retinoic acid receptor (RAR)beta and retinoid X receptor (RXR) but not RARalpha- or RARgamma-dependent pathways signaled this cyclin degradation. Findings were extended to the NT2/D1 human embryonal carcinoma differentiation model where a similar pathway was activated by RA-treatment. To determine whether G1 cyclins were involved directly in bronchial preneoplasia, immunohistochemical expression profiles for cyclins D1 and E were examined. Aberrant expression of these cyclins was frequent in bronchial preneoplasia. Taken together, these findings indicate that ubiquitin-dependent proteolysis of G1 cyclins is a retinoid chemoprevention mechanism. Whether the retinoids represent the optimal agents to activate this pathway is the subject of ongoing work. These findings provide a rationale for combining the retinoids in chemoprevention trials with other agents that do not activate this proteolysis pathway. What is now known about the retinoids as cancer prevention agents will be reviewed. Emphasis is placed on retinoid effects on cell cycle progression at G1.

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