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Cell Cycle. 2016 May 2;15(9):1184-8. doi: 10.1080/15384101.2016.1160983. Epub 2016 Mar 17.

Critical reanalysis of the methods that discriminate the activity of CDK2 from CDK1.

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a Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, and Norris Cotton Cancer Center , Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth , Lebanon , NH , USA.


Cyclin dependent kinases 1 and 2 (CDK1 and CDK2) play crucial roles in regulating cell cycle progression from G1 to S, through S, and G2 to M phase. Both inhibition and aberrant activation of CDK1/2 can be detrimental to cancer cell growth. However, the tools routinely employed to discriminate between the activities of these 2 kinases do not have the selectivity commonly attributed to them. Activation of these kinases is often assayed as a decrease of the inhibitory tyrosine-15 phosphorylation, yet the antibodies used cannot discriminate between phosphorylated CDK1 and CDK2. Inhibitors of these kinases, while partially selective against purified kinases, may lack selectivity when applied to intact cells. High levels of cyclin E are often considered a marker of increased CDK2 activity, yet active CDK2 targets cyclin E for degradation, hence high levels usually reflect inactive CDK2. Finally, inhibition of CDK2 does not arrest cells in S phase suggesting CDK2 is not required for S phase progression. Furthermore, activation of CDK2 in S phase can rapidly induce DNA double-strand breaks in some cell lines. The misunderstandings associated with the use of these tools has led to misinterpretation of results. In this review, we highlight these challenges in the field.


CDK1; CDK2; CVT-313; Chk1; Ro3306; S phase progression; cyclin E; phospho-specific antibodies

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