Ki-67 is one of the most famous marker proteins used by histologists to identify proliferating cells. Indeed, over 30 000 articles referring to Ki-67 are listed on PubMed. Here, we review some of the current literature regarding the protein. Despite its clinical importance, our knowledge of the molecular biology and biochemistry of Ki-67 is far from complete, and its exact molecular function(s) remain enigmatic. Furthermore, reports describing Ki-67 function are often contradictory, and it has only recently become clear that this proliferation marker is itself dispensable for cell proliferation. We discuss the unusual organization of the protein and its mRNA and how they relate to various models for its function. In particular, we focus on ways in which the intrinsically disordered structure of Ki-67 might aid in the assembly of the still-mysterious mitotic chromosome periphery compartment by controlling liquid-liquid phase separation of nucleolar proteins and RNAs.
Keywords: Ki-67; cell division; mitosis; mitotic chromosome periphery; nucleolus; phase separation.