A major function of p27, also known as Kip1, is to bind and inhibit cyclin/cyclin-dependent kinase complexes, thereby blocking cell cycle progression. As p27 operates at the heart of the cell cycle, it is perhaps not surprising that it is emerging as a key player in multiple cell fate decisions including proliferation, differentiation, and cell death. The central role of p27 makes it important in a variety of disease processes that involve aberrations in cellular proliferation and other cell fates. Most notable among these processes is neoplasia. A large number of studies have reported that p27 expression is frequently downregulated in human tumors. In most tumor types, reduced p27 expression correlates with poor prognosis, making p27 a novel and powerful prognostic marker. In addition to these practical implications, murine and tissue culture models have shown that p27 is a potent tumor suppressor gene for multiple epithelially derived neoplasias. Loss of p27 cooperates with mutations in several oncogenes and tumor suppressor genes to facilitate tumor growth, indicating that p27 may be a "nodal point" for tumor suppression. In contrast to most tumor suppressor genes studied to date, which are recessive at the cellular level, p27 is haploinsufficient for tumor suppression. The fact that tumor suppression by p27 is critically dependent on the absolute level of p27 expression indicates that p27 acts as a rheostat rather than as an on/off switch to control growth and neoplasia.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.