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Open Access Research article

Sam68 exerts separable effects on cell cycle progression and apoptosis

Stephen J Taylor1, Ross J Resnick2 and David Shalloway2*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, U.S.A

2 Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, U.S.A

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BMC Cell Biology 2004, 5:5  doi:10.1186/1471-2121-5-5

Published: 22 January 2004

Abstract

Background

The RNA-binding protein Sam68 has been implicated in a number of cellular processes, including transcription, RNA splicing and export, translation, signal transduction, cell cycle progression and replication of the human immunodeficiency virus and poliovirus. However, the precise impact it has on essential cellular functions remains largely obscure.

Results

In this report we show that conditional overexpression of Sam68 in fibroblasts results in both cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Arrest in G1 phase of the cell cycle is associated with decreased levels of cyclins D1 and E RNA and protein, resulting in dramatically reduced Rb phosphorylation. Interestingly, cell cycle arrest does not require the specific RNA binding ability of Sam68. In marked contrast, induction of apoptosis by Sam68 absolutely requires a fully-functional RNA binding domain. Moreover, the anti-cancer agent trichostatin A potentiates Sam68-driven apoptosis.

Conclusions

For the first time we have shown that Sam68, an RNA binding protein with multiple apparent functions, exerts functionally separable effects on cell proliferation and survival, dependent on its ability to bind specifically to RNA. These findings shed new light on the ability of signal transducing RNA binding proteins to influence essential cell function. Moreover, the ability of a class of anti-cancer therapeutics to modulate its ability to promote apoptosis suggests that Sam68 status may impact some cancer treatments.