The cyclin-dependent kinases Cdk4 and Cdk6 form complexes with D-type cyclins to drive cell proliferation. A well-known target of cyclin D-Cdk4,6 is the retinoblastoma protein Rb, which inhibits cell-cycle progression until its inactivation by phosphorylation. However, the role of Rb phosphorylation by cyclin D-Cdk4,6 in cell-cycle progression is unclear because Rb can be phosphorylated by other cyclin-Cdks, and cyclin D-Cdk4,6 has other targets involved in cell division. Here, we show that cyclin D-Cdk4,6 docks one side of an alpha-helix in the Rb C terminus, which is not recognized by cyclins E, A, and B. This helix-based docking mechanism is shared by the p107 and p130 Rb-family members across metazoans. Mutation of the Rb C-terminal helix prevents its phosphorylation, promotes G1 arrest, and enhances Rb's tumor suppressive function. Our work conclusively demonstrates that the cyclin D-Rb interaction drives cell division and expands the diversity of known cyclin-based protein docking mechanisms.
Keywords: Cdk; E2F; G1/S; Rb; cell-cycle regulation; cyclin; docking; kinase; phosphorylation.
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