Identification of downstream-initiated c-Myc proteins which are dominant-negative inhibitors of transactivation by full-length c-Myc proteins

Mol Cell Biol. 1997 Mar;17(3):1459-68. doi: 10.1128/mcb.17.3.1459.


The c-myc gene has been implicated in multiple cellular processes including proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis. In addition to the full-length c-Myc 1 and 2 proteins, we have found that human, murine, and avian cells express smaller c-Myc proteins arising from translational initiation at conserved downstream AUG codons. These c-Myc short (c-Myc S) proteins lack most of the N-terminal transactivation domain but retain the C-terminal protein dimerization and DNA binding domains. As with full-length c-Myc proteins, the c-Myc S proteins appear to be localized to the nucleus, are relatively unstable, and are phosphorylated. Significant levels of c-Myc S, often approaching the levels of full-length c-Myc, are transiently observed during the rapid growth phase of several different types of cells. Optimization of the upstream initiation codons resulted in greatly reduced synthesis of the c-Myc S proteins, suggesting that a "leaky scanning" mechanism leads to the translation of these proteins. In some hematopoietic tumor cell lines having altered c-myc genes, the c-Myc S proteins are constitutively expressed at levels equivalent to that of full-length c-Myc. As predicted, the c-Myc S proteins are unable to activate transcription and inhibited transactivation by full-length c-Myc proteins, suggesting a dominant-negative inhibitory function. While these transcriptional inhibitors would not be expected to function as full-length c-Myc, the occurrence of tumors which express constitutive high levels of c-Myc S and their transient synthesis during rapid cell growth suggest that these proteins do not interfere with the growth-promoting functions of full-length c-Myc.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bursa of Fabricius
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Nucleus / chemistry
  • Chickens
  • Codon, Initiator
  • Humans
  • Lymphoma
  • Mice
  • Molecular Weight
  • Peptide Chain Initiation, Translational / genetics*
  • Phosphorylation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / biosynthesis*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / chemistry
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc / metabolism
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Species Specificity
  • Transcriptional Activation / physiology*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Codon, Initiator
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-myc
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins