A role for a p21-E2F interaction during senescence arrest of normal human fibroblasts

Cynthia A. Afshari, Michael A. Nichols, Yue Xiong, Maria Mudryj

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48 Scopus citations


The family of E2F transcription factors forms different multiprotein complexes with cell cycle regulatory proteins to control the expression of genes important in cell proliferation. In this study, we identified four distinct E2F complexes present in aged and senescent normal, human diploid fibroblasts. Two appeared to be identical to the previously described G1- specific p130 and Rb-E2F complexes present in young G0-arrested cells. The other two were novel E2F complexes that contained the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 (cip1/WAF1/Sdi1/CAP20/PIC1) complexed with Rb/CDK2/cyclin E or with the Rb-related p107/CDK2/cyclin D. These p21-E2F complexes, while present in young G1 cells at very low levels, were elevated in senescent cells. The p21 containing E2F complexes were not detected during the S-phase in young cells. The DNA-binding stability of the p21 complexes was approximately 10 times greater than the stability of any other E2F complex or uncomplexed E2F. Addition of purified p21 protein to the S-phase-specific cyclin A/CDK2-p107-E2F complex from young cells dissociated cyclin A and CDK2 from p107/E2F, suggesting an additional novel function for p21. Finally, expression of p21 specifically inhibited transcription from an E2F-dependent promoter but had no effect on a mutant E2 promoter. In addition to its inhibition of CDK enzymes and proliferating cell nuclear antigen function in DNA replication, these studies reveal a novel mechanism by which p21 mediates growth arrest: direct interaction with E2F complexes and negative regulation of E2F transcription factor activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)979-988
Number of pages10
JournalCell Growth and Differentiation
Issue number8
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Molecular Biology


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