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J Biol Chem. 2002 Mar 22;277(12):9870-9. Epub 2002 Jan 9.

Transforming growth factor beta 1 induces proliferation in colon carcinoma cells by Ras-dependent, smad-independent down-regulation of p21cip1.

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Pathology Department, Upstate Medical University, State University of New York, Syracuse, New York 13210, USA.


Transforming growth factor beta1 (TGFbeta1) can act as a tumor suppressor or a tumor promoter depending on the characteristics of the malignant cell. We recently demonstrated that colon carcinoma cells transfected with oncogenic cellular K-rasV12, but not oncogenic cellular H-rasV12, switched from TGFbeta1-insensitive to TGFbeta1-growth-stimulated and also became more invasive (Yan, Z., Deng, X., and Friedman, E. (2001) J. Biol. Chem. 276, 1555-1563). We now demonstrate that TGFbeta1 growth stimulation of colon carcinoma cells is Ras-dependent and smad-independent. In U9 colon carcinoma cells, which are responsive to TGFbeta1 by growth stimulation, a truncating mutation at Gln-311 was found in the smad4 gene. Very little smad4 protein was detected in these cells. Loss of smad4 protein was confirmed by functional studies. In U9 cells co-transfected wild-type smad4, but not mutant smad4, mediated response of the 3TP-lux and pSBE promoter reporter constructs to TGFbeta1. Proliferation initiated by TGFbeta1 in U9 cells required Ras-mediated down-regulation of p21cip1 protein. Less p21cip1 was associated with cdk2 small middle dotcyclin complexes in TGFbeta1-treated U9 cells, and the cdk2 complexes had increased kinase activity. Elevation of p21cip1 levels diminished proliferative response to TGFbeta1. U9 cells expressing DN-N17ras neither proliferated in response to TGFbeta1 nor down-regulated the cdk inhibitor p21cip1, and TGFbeta1 activation of 3TP-lux in U9 cells was inhibited by DN-N17ras in a dose-dependent manner. TGFbeta1 also decreased p21cip1 levels and stimulated proliferation in SW480 cells, which express mutant K-Ras but no smad4 protein. TGFbeta1 did not activate or inhibit the p21cip1 promoter construct in U9 cells even in the presence of co-transfected smad4, or alter p21cip1 mRNA levels. Thus the decrease in p21cip1 levels was mediated by a TGFbeta-initiated Ras-dependent, but smad-independent post-transcriptional mechanism.

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