Transcriptional activation by pRB and its coordination with SWI/SNF recruitment

Stephen Flowers, George R. Beck, Elizabeth Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


A central question in cancer biology is why most tumor susceptibility genes are linked with only limited types of cancer. Human germ-line mutation of the retinoblastoma susceptibility gene Rb1 is closely linked with just retinoblastoma and osteosarcoma, although the gene is universally expressed. Functional analysis of pRB and its close relatives, p107 and p130, has largely focused on their roles in repression of proliferation across all tissue types, but genetic evidence indicates an active requirement for pRB in osteoblast differentiation that correlates more directly with osteosarcoma susceptibility. Still, potential promoter targets of pRB and its role in normally differentiating osteoblasts remain insufficiently characterized. Here, an early marker of osteoblast differentiation, alkaline phosphatase, is identified as a direct promoter activation target of pRB. One role of pRB on this promoter is to displace the histone lysine demethylase KDM5A, thereby favoring trimethylation of H3K4, a promoter activation mark. A major new aspect of pRB-mediated transcriptional activation revealed in this promoter analysis is its role in recruitment of an activating SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling complex. SWI/SNF is a critical coordinator of tissue-specific gene expression. In osteoblasts, SWI/SNF complexes containing the BRM ATPase repress osteoblast-specific genes to maintain the precursor state, whereas the alternative ATPase BRG1 distinguishes an activating SWI/SNF complex necessary for RNA polymerase-II recruitment. A switch from BRM to BRG1 on the alkaline phosphatase promoter marks the onset of differentiation and is accomplished in a precise two-step mechanism. Dissociation of BRM-containing SWI/SNF depends on p300, and association of BRG1-containing SWI/SNF depends on pRB.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8282-8287
Number of pages6
JournalCancer Research
Issue number21
StatePublished - Nov 1 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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