The E2F transcription factors: key regulators of cell proliferation

Biochim Biophys Acta. 2000 Feb 14;1470(1):M1-12. doi: 10.1016/s0304-419x(99)00030-x.


Ever since its discovery, the RB-1 gene and the corresponding protein, pRB, have been a focal point of cancer research. The isolation of E2F transcription factors provided the key to our current understanding of RB-1 function in the regulation of the cell cycle and in tumor suppression. It is becoming more and more evident that the regulatory circuits governing the cell cycle are very complex and highly interlinked. Certain aspects of RB-1 function, for instance its role in differentiation, cannot be easily explained by the current models of pRB-E2F interaction. One reason is that pRB has targets different from E2F, molecules like MyoD for instance. Another reason may be that we have not completely understood the full complexity of E2F function, itself. In this review, we will try to illuminate the role of E2F in pRB- and p53-mediated tumor suppression pathways with particular emphasis on the aspect of E2F-mediated transcriptional regulation. We conclude that E2F can mediate transcriptional activation as well as transcriptional repression of E2F target genes. The net effect of E2F on the transcriptional activity of a particular gene may be the result of as yet poorly understood protein-protein interactions of E2F with other components of the transcriptional machinery, as well as it may reflect the readout of the different ways of regulating E2F activity, itself. We will discuss the relevance of a thorough understanding of E2F function for cancer therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Carrier Proteins*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Division / genetics*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factor DP1
  • Transcription Factors / genetics*
  • Transcriptional Activation
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factor DP1
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53