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Nat Cell Biol. 2000 Mar;2(3):148-55.

p16INK4A and p19ARF act in overlapping pathways in cellular immortalization.

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Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford Street, London WC1 1EH, UK.


The INK4A locus encodes two independent but overlapping genes, p16INK4A and p19ARF, and is frequently inactivated in human cancers. The unusual structure of this locus has lead to ambiguity regarding the biological role of each gene. Here we express, in primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs), antisense RNA constructs directed specifically towards either p16INK4A or p19 ARF. Such constructs induce extended lifespan in primary MEFs; this lifespan extension is reversed upon subsequent elimination of the p16INK4A or p19ARF antisense constructs. In immortal derivatives of cell lines expressing antisense p16INK4A or p19ARF RNA, growth arrest induced by recovery of p16INK4A expression is bypassed by compromising the function of the retinoblastoma protein (Rb), whereas growth arrest induced by re-expression of p19ARF is overcome only by simultaneous inactivation of both the Rb and the p53 pathways. Thus, the physically overlapping p16INK4A and p19ARF genes act in partly overlapping pathways.

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