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Keywords:

  • AP-1;
  • JunB;
  • p16INK4a;
  • proliferation;
  • transformation

A role for the transcription factor JunB in proliferation control was investigated in genetically modified mouse fibroblasts. Increased JunB expression induced high levels of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p16INK4a, leading to premature senescence in primary cells and reduced proliferation in 3T3 cells, whereas lack of JunB expression results in decreased p16 levels. Furthermore, JunB-mediated p16 induction in 3T3 cells completely abolished cyclin D-associated kinase activity, resulting in reduced pRb hyperphosphorylation and G1-phase extension. Moreover, three AP1-like binding sites were identified in the p16 promoter through which JunB directly activates p16 transcription. Elevated JunB expression in 3T3 cells also inhibited Ras- and Src-mediated transformation and tumour growth in vivo. The suppressive effect of JunB on cell proliferation was shown to be dependent on p16 since it did not occur in INK4a−/− fibroblasts that lack both p16 and p19ARF. These results demonstrate that p16 is a direct transcriptional target gene of JunB and identify JunB as a negative regulator of cell proliferation.