EWS/FLI1 Suppresses Retinoblastoma Protein Function and Senescence in Ewing's Sarcoma Cells

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Ewing's Family Tumors (EFTs) most commonly harbor a specific t(11;22) translocation that generates the EWS/FLI1 fusion protein responsible for malignant transformation. Many potential downstream targets of EWS/FLI1 have been identified but a detailed mechanism by which the fusion protein brings about transformation remains unknown. In this report, we show that depletion of EWS/FLI1 in Ewing's cell lines results in a senescence phenotype, a marked increase in expression of the G1/S regulatory proteins p27kip1 and p57kip2, and a significant decrease in cyclin D1 and CDK2. We also demonstrate for the first time, to our knowledge, that knockdown of EWS/FLI1 leads to hypophosphorylation and functional activation of the retinoblastoma (pRb) family of proteins. Consistent with activation of the pRb proteins, E2F-responsive genes such as cyclin A are repressed in EWS/FLI1-depleted cells. Together, these results support the role of EWS/LI1 as an inhibitor of cellular senescence and implicate the retinoblastoma family of proteins as key mediators of this inhibition.

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