Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Biology (Cell Biology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology)

Major Professor

Srikumar P. Chellappan


Cancer, E2F, lung, metastasis, Raf-1, Retinoblastoma


The RbµE2F transcriptional regulatory pathway plays a critical role in the cell cycle. Rb is inactivated through multiple waves of phosphorylation, mediated mainly by cyclin D and cyclin E associated kinases. Once Rb is inactivated, cells can enter Sµphase. Collectively, three Rb family members and ten E2F proteins coordinate every additional stage of the cell cycle, from quiescence to mitosis. However the RbµE2F pathway is frequently altered in cancer. Aside from cell proliferation, the RbµE2F pathway regulates other essential cellular processes including apoptosis, cell differentiation, angiogenesis and DNA damage repair pathways, but its role in invasion and cancer progression is less clear. We demonstrate here that matrix metalloproteinases genes (MMPs), which regulate the invasion, migration and collagen degradation activities of cancer cells during metastasis are transcriptionally regulated by the RbµE2F pathway. Unlike E2F target genes involved in cell proliferation, which are solely regulated by the E2F activators (E2F1µ3), additional E2F family members can regulate MMP9, MMP14, and MMP15. While we had previously shown that Rafµ1 kinase physically interacts with Rb, and that disruption of this interaction with a small molecule inhibitor of the RbµRafµ1 interaction (RRDµ251) can inhibit cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and growth of tumors in mouse models, we now show RRDµ251 inhibits the expression of MMPs and the biological functions mediated by MMPs as well—including invasion, migration, and collagen degradation. RRDµ251 also inhibits metastatic foci development in a tail vein lung colonization model in mice. These results suggest that E2F transcription factors may play a role in promoting metastasis through regulation of MMP genes. Conversely, another MMP gene connected to metastasis, MMP2, is transcriptionally repressed by E2F1 in lung cancer cells through a p53µKAP1µHDAC1µmediated mechanism. However, E2F1 cannot repress the MMP2 promoter in cells that are lacking any component of this complex, such as p53 mutant breast cancer cells. Therefore the role of the RbµE2F pathway in MMP transcription and metastasis is cell type dependent. In addition to growth factors, nicotine can also induce cell proliferation, angiogenesis, EMT, and progression of lung cancer. In our studies, nicotine induced invasion, collagen degradation, and transcription of MMP2, MMP9, MMP14, and MMP15 required nAChRs, and multiple E2F family members. Our studies also show that nicotine not only promotes tumor growth in vivo through the nAChRµE2F pathway—it also results in metastasis to the liver and brain. Taken together, these studies link the RbµE2F pathway to the regulation of many facets of cancer.