Established and new mouse models reveal E2f1 and Cdk2 dependency of retinoblastoma, and expose effective strategies to block tumor initiation

Oncogene. 2012 Nov 29;31(48):5019-28. doi: 10.1038/onc.2011.654. Epub 2012 Jan 30.


RB(+/-) individuals develop retinoblastoma and, subsequently, many other tumors. The Rb relatives p107 and p130 protect the tumor-resistant Rb(-/-) mouse retina. Determining the mechanism underlying this tumor suppressor function may expose novel strategies to block Rb pathway cancers. p107/p130 are best known as E2f inhibitors, but here we implicate E2f-independent Cdk2 inhibition as the critical p107 tumor suppressor function in vivo. Like p107 loss, deleting p27 or inactivating its Cdk inhibitor (CKI) function (p27(CK-)) cooperated with Rb loss to induce retinoblastoma. Genetically, p107 behaved like a CKI because inactivating Rb and one allele each of p27 and p107 was tumorigenic. Although Rb loss induced canonical E2f targets, unexpectedly p107 loss did not further induce these genes, but instead caused post-transcriptional Skp2 induction and Cdk2 activation. Strikingly, Cdk2 activity correlated with tumor penetrance across all the retinoblastoma models. Therefore, Rb restrains E2f, but p107 inhibits cross talk to Cdk. While removing either E2f2 or E2f3 genes had little effect, removing only one E2f1 allele blocked tumorigenesis. More importantly, exposing retinoblastoma-prone fetuses to small molecule inhibitors of E2f (HLM006474) or Cdk (R547) for merely 1 week dramatically inhibited subsequent tumorigenesis in adult mice. Protection was achieved without disrupting normal proliferation. Thus, exquisite sensitivity of the cell-of-origin to E2f and Cdk activity can be exploited to prevent Rb pathway-induced cancer in vivo without perturbing normal cell division. These data suggest that E2f inhibitors, never before tested in vivo, or CKIs, largely disappointing as therapeutics, may be effective preventive agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2 / physiology*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • E2F1 Transcription Factor / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Retinoblastoma / pathology
  • Retinoblastoma / physiopathology*
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / physiology
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • E2F1 Transcription Factor
  • E2f1 protein, mouse
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Cdk2 protein, mouse
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase 2