Activated oncogenes induce compensatory tumour-suppressive responses, such as cellular senescence or apoptosis, but the signals determining the main outcome remain to be fully understood. Here, we uncover a role for Cdk2 (cyclin-dependent kinase 2) in suppressing Myc-induced senescence. Short-term activation of Myc promoted cell-cycle progression in either wild-type or Cdk2 knockout mouse embryo fibroblasts (MEFs). In the knockout MEFs, however, the initial hyper-proliferative response was followed by cellular senescence. Loss of Cdk2 also caused sensitization to Myc-induced senescence in pancreatic Β-cells or splenic B-cells in vivo, correlating with delayed lymphoma onset in the latter. Cdk2 -/- MEFs also senesced upon ectopic Wnt signalling or, without an oncogene, upon oxygen-induced culture shock. Myc also causes senescence in cells lacking the DNA repair protein Wrn. However, unlike loss of Wrn, loss of Cdk2 did not enhance Myc-induced replication stress, implying that these proteins suppress senescence through different routes. In MEFs, Myc-induced senescence was genetically dependent on the ARF-p53-p21 Cip1 and p16 INK4a-pRb pathways, p21 Cip1 and p16 INK4a being selectively induced in Cdk2 -/- cells. Thus, although redundant for cell-cycle progression and development, Cdk2 has a unique role in suppressing oncogene-and/or stress-induced senescence. Pharmacological inhibition of Cdk2 induced Myc-dependent senescence in various cell types, including a p53-null human cancer cell line. Our data warrant re-assessment of Cdk2 as a therapeutic target in Myc-or Wnt-driven tumours.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cell Biology