Loss of RB1 gene is considered either a causal or an accelerating event in retinoblastoma. A variety of mechanisms inactivates RB1 gene, including intragenic mutations, loss of expression by methylation and chromosomal deletions, with effects which are species-and cell type-specific. RB1 deletion can even lead to aneuploidy thus greatly increasing cancer risk. The RB1gene is part of a larger gene family that includes RBL1 and RBL2, each of the three encoding structurally related proteins indicated as pRb, p107, and p130, respectively. The great interest in these genes and proteins springs from their ability to slow down neoplastic growth. pRb can associate with various proteins by which it can regulate a great number of cellular activities. In particular, its association with the E2F transcription factor family allows the control of the main pRb functions, while the loss of these interactions greatly enhances cancer development. As RB1 gene, also pRb can be functionally inactivated through disparate mechanisms which are often tissue specific and dependent on the scenario of the involved tumor suppressors and oncogenes. The critical role of the context is complicated by the different functions played by the RB proteins and the E2F family members. In this review, we want to emphasize the importance of the mechanisms of RB1/pRb inactivation in inducing cancer cell development. The review is divided in three chapters describing in succession the mechanisms of RB1 inactivation in cancer cells, the alterations of pRb pathway in tumorigenesis and the RB protein and E2F family in cancer.
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