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Mol Cancer Res. 2008 Sep;6(9):1440-51. doi: 10.1158/1541-7786.MCR-08-0176.

The retinoblastoma protein tumor suppressor is important for appropriate osteoblast differentiation and bone development.

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David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research at MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.


Mutation of the retinoblastoma (RB) tumor suppressor gene is strongly linked to osteosarcoma formation. This observation and the documented interaction between the retinoblastoma protein (pRb) and Runx2 suggests that pRb is important in bone development. To assess this hypothesis, we used a conditional knockout strategy to generate pRb-deficient embryos that survive to birth. Analysis of these embryos shows that Rb inactivation causes the abnormal development and impaired ossification of several bones, correlating with an impairment in osteoblast differentiation. We further show that Rb inactivation acts to promote osteoblast differentiation in vitro and, through conditional analysis, establish that this occurs in a cell-intrinsic manner. Although these in vivo and in vitro differentiation phenotypes seem paradoxical, we find that Rb-deficient osteoblasts have an impaired ability to exit the cell cycle both in vivo and in vitro that can explain the observed differentiation defects. Consistent with this observation, we show that the cell cycle and the bone defects in Rb-deficient embryos can be suppressed by deletion of E2f1, a known proliferation inducer that acts downstream of Rb. Thus, we conclude that pRb plays a key role in regulating osteoblast differentiation by mediating the inhibition of E2F and consequently promoting cell cycle exit.

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