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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 Dec;17(12):7268-82.

E2F activity is regulated by cell cycle-dependent changes in subcellular localization.

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  • 1Center for Cancer Research, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge 02139, USA.


E2F directs the cell cycle-dependent expression of genes that induce or regulate the cell division process. In mammalian cells, this transcriptional activity arises from the combined properties of multiple E2F-DP heterodimers. In this study, we show that the transcriptional potential of individual E2F species is dependent upon their nuclear localization. This is a constitutive property of E2F-1, -2, and -3, whereas the nuclear localization of E2F-4 is dependent upon its association with other nuclear factors. We previously showed that E2F-4 accounts for the majority of endogenous E2F species. We now show that the subcellular localization of E2F-4 is regulated in a cell cycle-dependent manner that results in the differential compartmentalization of the various E2F complexes. Consequently, in cycling cells, the majority of the p107-E2F, p130-E2F, and free E2F complexes remain in the cytoplasm. In contrast, almost all of the nuclear E2F activity is generated by pRB-E2F. This complex is present at high levels during G1 but disappears once the cells have passed the restriction point. Surprisingly, dissociation of this complex causes little increase in the levels of nuclear free E2F activity. This observation suggests that the repressive properties of the pRB-E2F complex play a critical role in establishing the temporal regulation of E2F-responsive genes. How the differential subcellular localization of pRB, p107, and p130 contributes to their different biological properties is also discussed.

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