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J Cell Physiol. 2009 Nov;221(2):350-8. doi: 10.1002/jcp.21859.

E2F4 expression is required for cell cycle progression of normal intestinal crypt cells and colorectal cancer cells.

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CIHR Team on Digestive Epithelium, Département d'Anatomie et Biologie Cellulaire, Faculté de Médecine et des Sciences de la Santé, Université de Sherbrooke, Sherbrooke, QC, Canada.


The generation of knock-out mice for E2F4 gene expression has suggested a role for this transcription factor in establishing and/or maintaining the intestinal crypt compartment. Having previously demonstrated that E2F4 is cytoplasmic in quiescent-differentiated cells but nuclear in growth factor-stimulated proliferative cells, the present study was aimed at determining the role of E2F4 in the control of human intestinal epithelial proliferation. Results herein demonstrate that lentiviral infection of an shRNA which specifically knocked-down E2F4 expression slowed down G1/S phase transition and the proliferation rate of normal human intestinal epithelial cells (HIEC) and of colon cancer cells. Protein expression of Cdk2, cyclins D1 and A, Cdc25A and c-myc was markedly down-regulated in shE2F4-expressing cells; by contrast, expression of the cell cycle inhibitors p21(Cip/Waf) and p27(Kip1) was increased. In addition, the expression of many genes involved in DNA synthesis was down-regulated in shE2F4-expressing cells, whereas no modulation in E2F1 expression was observed. A decrease in E2F4 in colon cancer cell lines also resulted in a reduction in soft-agar growth capacity. Immunofluorescence experiments in human fetal intestine revealed that cells expressing high nuclear levels of E2F4 also expressed cyclin A protein. Lastly, E2F4 and its target cyclin A were up-regulated and mostly nuclear in human colorectal tumor cells in comparison to the corresponding benign epithelium. These results indicate that nuclear E2F4 may be determinant in the promotion of proliferation of human intestinal epithelial crypt cells and colorectal cancer cells.

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