The oncogene and Polycomb-group gene bmi-1 regulates cell proliferation and senescence through the ink4a locus

Nature. 1999 Jan 14;397(6715):164-8. doi: 10.1038/16476.


The bmi-1 gene was first isolated as an oncogene that cooperates with c-myc in the generation of mouse lymphomas. We subsequently identified Bmi-1 as a transcriptional repressor belonging to the mouse Polycomb group. The Polycomb group comprises an important, conserved set of proteins that are required to maintain stable repression of specific target genes, such as homeobox-cluster genes, during development. In mice, the absence of bmi-1 expression results in neurological defects and severe proliferative defects in lymphoid cells, whereas bmi-1 overexpression induces lymphomas. Here we show that bmi-1-deficient primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts are impaired in progression into the S phase of the cell cycle and undergo premature senescence. In these fibroblasts and in bmi-1-deficient lymphocytes, the expression of the tumour suppressors p16 and p19Arf, which are encoded by ink4a, is raised markedly. Conversely, overexpression of bmi-1 allows fibroblast immortalization, downregulates expression of p16 and p19Arf and, in combination with H-ras, leads to neoplastic transformation. Removal of ink4a dramatically reduces the lymphoid and neurological defects seen in bmi-1-deficient mice, indicating that ink4a is a critical in vivo target for Bmi-1. Our results connect transcriptional repression by Polycomb-group proteins with cell-cycle control and senescence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle / physiology
  • Cell Division / genetics
  • Cell Division / physiology*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cellular Senescence / genetics
  • Cellular Senescence / physiology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Fibroblasts
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics*
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology
  • Oncogenes
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / physiology
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / physiology
  • Repressor Proteins*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF


  • BMI1 protein, human
  • Bmi1 protein, mouse
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p16
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Repressor Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p14ARF
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 1