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PLoS One. 2011 Jan 28;6(1):e16615. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016615.

p38 MAPK-Mediated Bmi-1 down-regulation and defective proliferation in ATM-deficient neural stem cells can be restored by Akt activation.

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Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis, MD Anderson Cancer Center, The University of Texas, Smithville, Texas, United States of America.


A-T (ataxia telangiectasia) is a genetic disease caused by a mutation in the Atm (A-T mutated) gene that leads to neurodegeneration. Despite an increase in the numbers of studies in this area in recent years, the mechanisms underlying neurodegeneration in human A-T are still poorly understood. Previous studies demonstrated that neural stem cells (NSCs) isolated from the subventricular zone (SVZ) of Atm(-/-) mouse brains show defective self-renewal and proliferation, which is accompanied by activation of chronic p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) and a lower level of the polycomb protein Bmi-1. However, the mechanism underlying Bmi-1 down-regulation and its relevance to defective proliferation in Atm(-/-) NSCs remained unclear. Here, we show that over-expression of Bmi-1 increases self-renewal and proliferation of Atm(-/-) NSCs to normal, indicating that defective proliferation in Atm(-/-) NSCs is a consequence of down-regulation of Bmi-1. We also demonstrate that epidermal growth factor (EGF)-induced Akt phosphorylation renders Bmi-1 resistant to the proteasomal degradation, leading to its stabilization and accumulation in the nucleus. However, inhibition of the Akt-dependent Bmi-1 stabilizing process by p38 MAPK signaling reduces the levels of Bmi-1. Treatment of the Atm(-/-) NSCs with a specific p38 MAPK inhibitor SB203580 extended Bmi-1 posttranscriptional turnover and H2A ubiquitination in Atm(-/-) NSCs. Our observations demonstrate the molecular basis underlying the impairment of self-renewal and proliferation in Atm(-/-) NSCs through the p38 MAPK-Akt-Bmi-1-p21 signaling pathway.

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