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Mol Cell. 1998 Sep;2(3):283-92.

Key roles for E2F1 in signaling p53-dependent apoptosis and in cell division within developing tumors.

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Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 27599, USA.


Apoptosis induced by the p53 tumor suppressor can attenuate cancer growth in preclinical animal models. Inactivation of the pRb proteins in mouse brain epithelium by the T121 oncogene induces aberrant proliferation and p53-dependent apoptosis. p53 inactivation causes aggressive tumor growth due to an 85% reduction in apoptosis. Here, we show that E2F1 signals p53-dependent apoptosis since E2F1 deficiency causes an 80% apoptosis reduction. E2F1 acts upstream of p53 since transcriptional activation of p53 target genes is also impaired. Yet, E2F1 deficiency does not accelerate tumor growth. Unlike normal cells, tumor cell proliferation is impaired without E2F1, counterbalancing the effect of apoptosis reduction. These studies may explain the apparent paradox that E2F1 can act as both an oncogene and a tumor suppressor in experimental systems.

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