Deficiency of retinoblastoma protein leads to inappropriate S-phase entry, activation of E2F-responsive genes, and apoptosis

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1995 Jun 6;92(12):5436-40. doi: 10.1073/pnas.92.12.5436.


The retinoblastoma susceptibility gene (Rb) participates in controlling the G1/S-phase transition, presumably by binding and inactivating E2F transcription activator family members. Mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) with no, one, or two inactivated Rb genes were used to determine the specific contributions of Rb protein to cell cycle progression and gene expression. MEFs lacking both Rb alleles (Rb-/-) entered S phase in the presence of the dihydrofolate reductase inhibitor methotrexate. Two E2F target genes, dihydrofolate reductase and thymidylate synthase, displayed elevated mRNA and protein levels in Rb- MEFs. Since absence of functional Rb protein in MEFs is sufficient for S-phase entry under growth-limiting conditions, these data indicate that the E2F complexes containing Rb protein, and not the Rb-related proteins p107 and p130, may be rate limiting for the G1/S transition. Antineoplastic drugs caused accumulation of p53 in the nuclei of both Rb+/+ and Rb-/- MEFs. While p53 induction led to apoptosis in Rb-/- MEFs, Rb+/- and Rb+/+ MEFs underwent cell cycle arrest without apoptosis. These results reveal that diverse growth signals work through Rb to regulate entry into S phase, and they indicate that absence of Rb protein produces a constitutive DNA replication signal capable of activating a p53-associated apoptotic response.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Aspartic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Aspartic Acid / pharmacology
  • Carrier Proteins*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins*
  • Cell Nucleus / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA-Binding Proteins*
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Genes, Retinoblastoma
  • Genes, p53
  • Methotrexate / pharmacology
  • Mice
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid / analogs & derivatives
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid / pharmacology
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / genetics
  • Retinoblastoma Protein / metabolism*
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 1
  • S Phase* / drug effects
  • Transcription Factor DP1
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Arid4a protein, mouse
  • Carrier Proteins
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • E2F Transcription Factors
  • Retinoblastoma Protein
  • Retinoblastoma-Binding Protein 1
  • Transcription Factor DP1
  • Transcription Factors
  • Aspartic Acid
  • sparfosic acid
  • Phosphonoacetic Acid
  • Methotrexate