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Cell Cycle. 2010 Mar 15;9(6):1122-30. Epub 2010 Mar 15.

Absence of pRb facilitates E2F1-induced apoptosis in breast cancer cells.

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Department of Laboratory Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA.


The transcription factor E2F1 is known for its interaction with pRb, controlling cell proliferation; however, E2F1 also has a pivotal role in regulating apoptosis.  The relationship between pRb and E2F1 balances cell proliferation and apoptosis giving pRb tumor suppressive properties. The intricacies of the pRb/E2F1 relationship and thus the regulation of cell fate is cell context dependent. To explore the role of pRb in the E2F1-induced apoptosis of human breast cancer cells, we examined cell growth and apoptosis induction in isogenic cell systems of immortalized breast epithelial cells lacking either pRb (76NE7) or p53 (76NE6). We found that E2F1 caused accumulation of cells in G2 and S phases of the cell cycle along with apoptosis in 76NE7 but not 76NE6 cells.  Variants of 76NE6 cells with functional p53 did not rescue the apoptotic response in these cells, whereas knocking down pRb resulted in significant E2F1-induced apoptosis. We also determined that the effect of E2F1 overexpression in two breast cancer cell lines, MDA-MB-436 and MDA-MB-468, which lack pRb and functional p53, was accumulation of cells in G2/S phase and apoptosis. However, E2F did not cause apotosis  in MCF-7 cells which harbor a functional pRb. Therefore, we conclude that in the absence of Rb, E2F1 overexpression results in apoptosis, not proliferation, and that this effect is independent of p53.

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