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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2017 Oct;91(Pt B):98-101. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2017.05.013. Epub 2017 May 11.

Expression and alternative splicing of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor-3 gene in human cancer.

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Department of Molecular Oncology, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute, Tampa, FL, USA.
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and TEES-AgriLife Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic Systems Engineering, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, USA.
Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA; Department of Pathology, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK, USA. Electronic address:


The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor-3 (CDKN3) gene encodes a dual-specificity protein tyrosine phosphatase that dephosphorylates CDK1/CDK2 and other proteins. CDKN3 is often overexpressed in human cancer, and this overexpression correlates with reduced survival in several types of cancer. CDKN3 transcript variants and mutations have also been reported. The mechanism of CDKN3 overexpression and the role of CDKN3 transcript variants in human cancer are not entirely clear. Here, we review the literature and provide additional data to assess the correlation of CDKN3 expression with patient survival. Besides the full-length CDKN3 encoding transcript and a major transcript that skips exon 2 express in normal and cancer cells, minor aberrant transcript variants have been reported. Aberrant CDKN3 transcripts were postulated to encode dominant-negative inhibitors of CDKN3 as an explanation for overexpression of the perceived tumor suppressor gene in human cancer. However, while CDKN3 is often overexpressed in human cancer, aberrant CDKN3 transcripts occur infrequently and at lower levels. CDKN3 mutations and copy number alternation are rare in human cancer, implying that neither loss of CDKN3 activity nor constitutive gain of CDKN3 expression offer an advantage to tumorigenesis. Recently, it was found that CDKN3 transcript and protein levels fluctuate during the cell cycle, peaking in mitosis. Given that rapidly growing tumors have more mitotic cells, the high level of mitotic CDKN3 expression is the most plausible mechanism of frequent CDKN3 overexpression in human cancer. This finding clarifies the mechanism of CDKN3 overexpression in human cancer and questions the view of CDKN3 as a tumor suppressor.


CDK1; CDKN3; Cancer; Mitosis; Phosphatase; Splicing

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