Send to

Choose Destination
J Neurosci. 2009 Jan 14;29(2):529-42. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5303-08.2009.

The polycomb group gene Bmi1 regulates antioxidant defenses in neurons by repressing p53 pro-oxidant activity.

Author information

Developmental Biology Laboratory, Maisonneuve-Rosemont Hospital, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Aging may be determined by a genetic program and/or by the accumulation rate of molecular damages. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) generated by the mitochondrial metabolism have been postulated to be the central source of molecular damages and imbalance between levels of intracellular ROS and antioxidant defenses is a characteristic of the aging brain. How aging modifies free radicals concentrations and increases the risk to develop most neurodegenerative diseases is poorly understood, however. Here we show that the Polycomb group and oncogene Bmi1 is required in neurons to suppress apoptosis and the induction of a premature aging-like program characterized by reduced antioxidant defenses. Before weaning, Bmi1(-/-) mice display a progeroid-like ocular and brain phenotype, while Bmi1(+/-) mice, although apparently normal, have reduced lifespan. Bmi1 deficiency in neurons results in increased p19(Arf)/p53 levels, abnormally high ROS concentrations, and hypersensitivity to neurotoxic agents. Most Bmi1 functions on neurons' oxidative metabolism are genetically linked to repression of p53 pro-oxidant activity, which also operates in physiological conditions. In Bmi1(-/-) neurons, p53 and corepressors accumulate at antioxidant gene promoters, correlating with a repressed chromatin state and antioxidant gene downregulation. These findings provide a molecular mechanism explaining how Bmi1 regulates free radical concentrations and reveal the biological impact of Bmi1 deficiency on neuronal survival and aging.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Publication types, MeSH terms, Substances, Grant support

Publication types

MeSH terms


Grant support

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center