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OBJECTIVE - The p21Cip1 protein is a potent stoichiometric inhibitor of cyclin-dependent kinase activity, and p21Cip1 mRNA expression is localized to the nonproliferative compartment of the intestinal villus, suggesting an in vivo growth-inhibitory role in the gut. The authors determined whether nontransformed rat intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) underwent reversible cell cycle arrest by contact inhibition, and determined whether increases in the relative amount of p21 associated with cyclin D/Cdk4 protein complexes were associated with cell growth arrest.
METHODS - Density arrest was achieved by prolonged culture IEC-6 in confluent conditions (5 or more days). Release from density arrest was achieved by detaching the cells from the culture plate and reseeding them at a 1:4 ratio. The DNA synthesis was estimated by [3H]-thymidine incorporation and expressed as mean plus or minus standard error of the mean (n = 4). Cyclin D1, Cdk4, and p21 mRNA and protein levels were determined by standard Northern and Western blot analyses, respectively. Cyclin D1, Cdk4, and p21 protein complex formation was analyzed by immunoprecipitating the complexes from cell lysates with an antibody to one of the constituents, followed by SDS polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) and Western blot analysis of the precipitated complexes using antibodies to the other proteins. The kinase activity of the immunoprecipitated Cdk4 was determined using recombinant Rb as substrate.
RESULTS - The IEC-6[3H]-thymidine incorporation was decreased 7.5-fold from day 1 confluence to day 7 of confluence. Twenty-four hours after release from density arrest, there was a 43-fold increase in [3H]-thymidine incorporation. Cyclin D1 and Cdk4 mRNA levels remained relatively constant during contact inhibition, whereas immunoblotting showed that the levels of cyclin D1 and Cdk4 proteins decreased by 70.9% and 68.7%, respectively, comparing day 3 with day 9 during density arrest. The levels of cyclin D1 increased 5.8-fold and Cdk4 increased by 4.4-fold by 24 hours after reseeding the day 9 density-arrested cultures, coincident with the increase in DNA synthesis. The amount of p21 associated with the cyclin D1 and Cdk4 complex in the density-arrested cells was 170% of that observed in the reseeded, proliferating cells. More important, the p21::Cdk4 ratio was 6.4-fold higher in the density-arrested (quiescent) cells as compared with rapidly proliferating cells by 24 hours after release from growth arrest. Recovery of Cdk4-dependent kinase activity occurred by 4 hours after release from growth arrest, coincident with decreased binding of p21 to the complex.
CONCLUSIONS - Intestinal epithelial cells in culture can undergo density-dependent growth arrest. This process involves downregulation of cyclin D1 and Cdk4 at the level of protein expression, whereas the mRNA levels remain relatively unchanged. Further, during contact inhibition, there is more p21 associated with cyclin D1/Cdk4, which further contributes to the inhibition of the kinase complex. The authors also have shown that the process of contact inhibition is reversible, which may explain partly the ability of the intestinal epithelium to increase proliferative activity in response to injury.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of death from cancer in the United States. Continuous use of aspirin and other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) has been shown to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer in humans by 40-50%. Patients with familial adenomatous polyposis who take NSAIDs, such as sulindac, undergo a regression of intestinal adenomas. Rodents exposed to carcinogens that cause colon cancer have a 50-60% reduction in the size and number of colonic tumors when treated continuously with NSAIDs. One common target for these drugs is prostaglandin endoperoxide synthase, also referred to as cyclooxygenase (COX). We and others have shown recently that COX-2 levels are increased dramatically in 85-90% of human colorectal adenocarcinomas and in 40-50% of colonic adenomas. We prepared intestinal epithelial cells that express the COX-2 gene permanently and found that they have altered adhesion properties and resist undergoing apoptosis. We report here that these cells also have a 3-fold increase in the duration of G1, lower levels of cyclin D1 protein, and a marked decrease in retinoblastoma kinase activity associated with cyclin-dependent kinase 4. The delay in G1 transit may relate to the resistance of these cells to undergo programmed cell death, which could affect their tumorigenic potential.
The product (pRb) of the retinoblastoma gene (RB-1) prevents S-phase entry during the cell cycle, and inactivation of this growth-suppressive function is presumed to result from pRb hyperphosphorylation during late G1 phase. Complexes of the cyclin-dependent kinase, cdk4, and each of three different D-type cyclins, assembled in insect Sf9 cells, phosphorylated a pRb fusion protein in vitro at sites identical to those phosphorylated in human T cells. Only D-type cyclins activated cdk4 enzyme activity, whereas cyclins A, B1, and E did not. When Sf9 cells were coinfected with baculovirus vectors encoding human pRb and murine D-type cyclins, cyclins D2 and D3, but not D1, bound pRb with high stoichiometry in intact cells. Introduction of a vector encoding cdk4, together with those expressing pRb and D-type cyclins, induced pRb hyperphosphorylation and dissociation of cyclins D2 and D3, whereas expression of a kinase-defective cdk4 mutant in lieu of the wild-type catalytic subunit yielded ternary complexes. The transcription factor E2F-1 also bound to pRb in insect cells, and coexpression of cyclin D-cdk4 complexes, but neither subunit alone, triggered pRb phosphorylation and prevented its interaction with E2F-1. The D-type cyclins may play dual roles as cdk4 regulatory subunits and as adaptor proteins that physically target active enzyme complexes to particular substrates.
The concept of positive and negative regulation of normal cellular growth by diffusible factors is well illustrated by the effects of epidermal growth factor and transforming growth factor beta 1 (TGF beta 1) on mouse keratinocytes (MK) and mink lung epithelial cells (Mv1Lu). MK and Mv1Lu are nontransformed cell lines that reversibly arrest at a point in late G1 in response to TGF beta 1. Previously, we have shown that expression of the protooncogene c-myc is induced upon epidermal growth factor stimulation of quiescent MK and Mv1Lu cells and that transcriptional suppression of c-myc by TGF beta 1 treatment is important in the TGF beta 1 growth inhibition pathway. Using epidermal growth factor-stimulated synchronized MK and Mv1Lu cells, we have investigated the mRNA expression of a large number of growth factor-inducible genes that are critical regulators of growth in G1 and at the G1/S transition. These genes, often found to be dysregulated in cancer, include transcription factors as well as cyclins and their associated kinases, that promote growth, and tumor suppressor genes, that inhibit growth. As reported here, TGF beta 1 significantly inhibited mRNA expression of B-myb and cyclin A in both cell lines, suggesting that these may be important common downstream targets in the growth inhibition pathway. In contrast, the expression patterns of cyclins D1 and D2 and the transcription factors E2F1 and E2F2 were unaffected in MK cells treated with TGF beta 1 but were significantly inhibited in TGF beta 1-treated Mv1Lu cells. We cite the evidence suggesting that the inhibition of B-myb and cyclin A may contribute to the late G1 arrest caused by TGF beta 1 and that these events may be linked through the actions of the product of the retinoblastoma susceptibility gene (Rb) or an Rb family member.
Transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-beta 1) inhibits most epithelial cell types by blocking cell cycle progression during the G1 phase. D cyclins are normally expressed during G1 and are regulators of G1 progression. One of the crucial functions of D cyclins is their ability to bind to a cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk4). In mink lung epithelial cells, TGF-beta 1 inhibits Cdk4 expression. We have measured cell cycle progression and D cyclins and Cdk4 expression in non-transformed rat intestinal epithelial cell lines (IEC-6 and RIE-1) after TGF-beta 1 treatment. In exponentially growing cultures, TGF-beta 1 blocked DNA synthesis and suppressed cyclin D1 mRNA and protein expression, whereas the levels of cyclins D2, D3 and Cdk4 remained relatively unchanged. TGF-beta 1 was also added to G0-synchronized IEC-6 cells after serum stimulation. TGF-beta 1 prevention of G1 progression was associated with an inhibition of cyclin D1 protein expression. Cyclin D3 levels were not affected by TGF-beta 1 during G1 traverse. Our results suggest that cyclin D/Cdk4 is a crucial target of TGF-beta 1 and that regulation of this kinase is mediated through cyclin D1 in intestinal epithelial cells.