Loss of Rb activates both p53-dependent and independent cell death pathways in the developing mouse nervous system

EMBO J. 1996 Nov 15;15(22):6178-88.


Extensive apoptosis occurs in the nervous system of mouse embryos homozygous mutant for a targeted disruption of the retinoblastoma (Rb) gene. This cell death is present in both the central (CNS) and peripheral nervous systems (PNS) and is associated with abnormal S phase entry of normally post-mitotic neurons. Aberrant proliferation in the CNS correlates with increased free E2F DNA binding activity and increased expression of cyclin E, an E2F target gene and critical cell cycle regulator. Cell death in the CNS is accompanied by increased levels of the p53 tumor suppressor gene product and increased expression of the p53 target gene, p21Waf-1/Cip-1. However, induction of p53 is not observed in the PNS of Rb-mutant embryos, nor does loss of p53 function inhibit cell death in the PNS. Surprisingly, p21Waf-1/Cip-1 is induced in the sensory ganglia of Rb-mutant embryos in a p53-independent manner. Although loss of p53 gene function prevents cell death in the CNS of Rb-mutant embryos, it does not restore normal proliferative control.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics*
  • Blotting, Western
  • Brain / cytology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Central Nervous System / cytology
  • Central Nervous System / growth & development
  • Central Nervous System / metabolism
  • Cyclins / metabolism*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Embryonic and Fetal Development
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / genetics
  • Genes, Retinoblastoma / genetics*
  • Genes, p53 / genetics*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Peripheral Nervous System / cytology
  • Peripheral Nervous System / growth & development
  • Peripheral Nervous System / metabolism
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / metabolism
  • S Phase / genetics
  • S Phase / physiology
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Cyclins
  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)