Rb/E2F4 and Smad2/3 link survivin to TGF-beta-induced apoptosis and tumor progression

Oncogene. 2008 Sep 11;27(40):5326-38. doi: 10.1038/onc.2008.165. Epub 2008 May 26.


Survivin is a prosurvival protein overexpressed in many cancers through mechanisms that remain poorly explored, and is implicated in control of tumor progression and resistance to cancer chemotherapeutics. Here, we report a critical role for survivin in the induction of apoptosis by transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta). We show that TGF-beta rapidly downregulates survivin expression in prostate epithelial cells, through a unique mechanism of transcriptional suppression involving Smads 2 and 3, Rb/E2F4, and the cell-cycle repressor elements CDE and CHR. This TGF-beta response is triggered through a Smad2/3-dependent hypophosphorylation of Rb and the subsequent association of the Rb/E2F4 repressive complex to CDE/CHR elements in the proximal region of the survivin promoter. Viral-mediated gene delivery experiments, involving overexpressing or silencing survivin, reveal critical roles of survivin in apoptosis induced by TGF-beta alone or in cooperation with cancer therapeutic agents. We propose a novel TGF-beta/Rb/survivin axis with a putative role in the functional switch of TGF-beta from tumor suppressor to tumor promoter.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Blotting, Western
  • E2F4 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • E2F4 Transcription Factor / metabolism*
  • Electrophoretic Mobility Shift Assay
  • Humans
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Male
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / genetics*
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Proteins / genetics*
  • Neoplasm Proteins / metabolism
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases / metabolism
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism
  • Response Elements
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Smad2 Protein / genetics
  • Smad2 Protein / metabolism*
  • Smad3 Protein / genetics
  • Smad3 Protein / metabolism*
  • Survivin
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • BIRC5 protein, human
  • E2F4 Transcription Factor
  • E2F4 protein, human
  • Inhibitor of Apoptosis Proteins
  • Microtubule-Associated Proteins
  • Neoplasm Proteins
  • Receptors, Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • SMAD2 protein, human
  • SMAD3 protein, human
  • Smad2 Protein
  • Smad3 Protein
  • Survivin
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • Protein-Serine-Threonine Kinases
  • Receptor, Transforming Growth Factor-beta Type I