The molecular balancing act of p16(INK4a) in cancer and aging.

LaPak KM, Burd CE
Mol Cancer Res 12 167-83 02/01/2014


p16(INK4a), located on chromosome 9p21.3, is lost among a cluster of neighboring tumor suppressor genes. Although it is classically known for its capacity to inhibit cyclin-dependent kinase (CDK) activity, p16(INK4a) is not just a one-trick pony. Long-term p16(INK4a) expression pushes cells to enter senescence, an irreversible cell-cycle arrest that precludes the growth of would-be cancer cells but also contributes to cellular aging. Importantly, loss of p16(INK4a) is one of the most frequent events in human tumors and allows precancerous lesions to bypass senescence. Therefore, precise regulation of p16(INK4a) is essential to tissue homeostasis, maintaining a coordinated balance between tumor suppression and aging. This review outlines the molecular pathways critical for proper p16(INK4a) regulation and emphasizes the indispensable functions of p16(INK4a) in cancer, aging, and human physiology that make this gene special.

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