CDK6 kinase activity is required for thymocyte development

Blood. 2011 Jun 9;117(23):6120-31. doi: 10.1182/blood-2010-08-300517. Epub 2011 Apr 20.


Cyclin-dependent kinase-6 (CDK6) is required for early thymocyte development and tumorigenesis. To mechanistically dissect the role of CDK6 in thymocyte development, we generated and analyzed mutant knock-in mice and found that mice expressing a kinase-dead Cdk6 allele (Cdk6(K43M)) had a pronounced reduction in thymocytes and hematopoietic stem cells and progenitor cells (Lin⁻Sca-1⁺c-Kit⁺ [LSK]). In contrast, mice expressing the INK4-insensitive, hyperactive Cdk6(R31C) allele displayed excess proliferation in LSK and thymocytes. However, this is countered at least in part by increased apoptosis, which may limit progenitor and thymocyte expansion in the absence of other genetic events. Our mechanistic studies demonstrate that CDK6 kinase activity contributes to Notch signaling because inactive CDK6 kinase disrupts Notch-dependent survival, proliferation, and differentiation of LSK, with concomitant alteration of Notch target gene expression, such as massive up-regulation of CD25. Further, knockout of CD25 in Cdk6(K43M) mice rescued most defects observed in young mice. These results illustrate an important role for CDK6 kinase activity in thymocyte development that operates partially through modulating Notch target gene expression. This role of CDK6 as a downstream mediator of Notch identifies CDK6 kinase activity as a potential therapeutic target in human lymphoid malignancies.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / biosynthesis*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6 / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic / physiology*
  • Gene Knock-In Techniques
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Hematologic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / biosynthesis
  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Receptors, Notch / genetics
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Thymus Gland / enzymology*


  • Interleukin-2 Receptor alpha Subunit
  • Receptors, Notch
  • Cdk6 protein, mouse
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 6