Induction of p21 and p27 expression by amino acid deprivation of HepG2 human hepatoma cells involves mRNA stabilization

Biochem J. 2004 Apr 1;379(Pt 1):79-88. doi: 10.1042/BJ20031383.


mRNA abundance for a number of genes is increased by amino acid limitation. From an array screening study in HepG2 human hepatoma cells, it was established that one set of genes affected by amino acid availability is the set associated with cell-cycle control. The present study describes the increased expression of both mRNA and protein for the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitors p21 and p27 in response to deprivation of HepG2 cells for a single essential amino acid, histidine. The increase in p21 and p27 mRNA content depended on de novo protein synthesis and involved a post-transcriptional mRNA stabilization component. For p21, increase in mRNA by histidine depletion appeared to be independent of p53 transactivation, and the absolute level of p53 protein was unaffected by this treatment. Histidine limitation caused an increase in the phosphorylation of ERK1/ERK2 (extracellular-signal-regulated kinase), and inhibition of the ERK signal transduction pathway resulted in a reduction in the starvation-dependent increase in p21 mRNA. Blockade of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase and mTOR (mammalian target of rapamycin) pathways also blunted the increase in p21 mRNA content. These results document the amino acid-dependent control of the synthesis of specific cell-cycle regulators and help to explain the block at G1 phase after amino acid limitation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / deficiency
  • Amino Acids / physiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Cell Cycle Proteins / genetics*
  • Cell Line, Tumor / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • Cyclins / biosynthesis
  • Cyclins / genetics*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • G1 Phase / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Genes, Reporter
  • Genes, cdc*
  • Humans
  • Liver Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1 / metabolism
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinases / physiology
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Protein Deficiency / metabolism*
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinases / physiology
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • RNA Processing, Post-Transcriptional*
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism*
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins / genetics*


  • Amino Acids
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Nucleic Acid Synthesis Inhibitors
  • Phosphoinositide-3 Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Kinase Inhibitors
  • Protein Synthesis Inhibitors
  • RNA, Messenger
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p27
  • Protein Kinases
  • MTOR protein, human
  • TOR Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 1
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase 3
  • Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases