The retinoblastoma tumor suppressor protein, Rb, plays a major role in the regulation of mammalian cell cycle progression. It has been shown that Rb function is essential for the proper modulation of G1/S transition and inactivation of Rb contributes to deregulated cell proliferation. Rb exerts its cell cycle regulatory functions mainly by targeting the E2F family of transcription factors and Rb has been shown to physically interact with E2Fs 1, 2 and 3, repressing their transcriptional activity. Multiple genes involved in DNA synthesis and cell cycle progression are regulated by E2Fs, and Rb prevents their expression by inhibiting E2F activity, inducing growth arrest. It has been established that inactivation of Rb by phosphorylation, mutation, or by the interaction of viral oncoproteins leads to a release of the repression of E2F activity, facilitating cell cycle progression. Rb-mediated repression of E2F activity involves the recruitment of a variety of transcriptional co-repressors and chromatin remodeling proteins, including histone deacetylases, DNA methyltransferases and Brg1/Brm chromatin remodeling proteins. Inactivation of Rb by sequential phosphorylation events during cell cycle progression leads to a dissociation of these co-repressors from Rb, facilitating transcription. It has been found that small molecules that prevent the phosphorylation of Rb prevent the dissociation of certain co-repressors from Rb, especially Brg1, leading to the maintenance of Rb-mediated transcriptional repression and cell cycle arrest. Such small molecules have anti-cancer activities and will also act as valuable probes to study chromatin remodeling and transcriptional regulation.
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