One of the outstanding fundamental questions in cancer cell biology concerns how cells coordinate cellular growth (or macromolecular synthesis) with cell cycle progression and mitosis. Intuitively, rapidly dividing cells must have some control over these processes; otherwise cells would continue to shrink in volume with every passing cycle, similar to the cytoreductive divisions seen in the very early stages of embryogenesis. The problem is easily solved in unicellular organisms, such as yeast, as their growth rates are entirely dependent on nutrient availability. Multicellular organisms such as mammals, however, must have acquired additional levels of control, as nutrient availability is seldom an issue and the organism has a prodigious capacity to store necessary metabolites in the form of glycogen, lipids, and protein. Furthermore, the specific needs and specialized architecture of tissues must constrain growth for growth's sake; if not, the necessary function of the organ could be lost. While certainly a myriad of mechanisms for preventing this exist via initiating cell death (e.g. apoptosis, autophagy, necrosis), these all depend on some external cue, such as death signals, hypoxia, lack of nutrients or survival signals. However there must also be some cell autonomous method for surveying against inappropriate growth signals (such as oncogenic stress) that occur in a stochastic fashion, possibly as a result of random mutations. The ARF tumor suppressor seems to fulfill that role, as its expression is near undetectable in normal tissues, yet is potently induced by oncogenic stress (such as overexpression of oncogenic Ras or myc). As a result of induced expression of ARF, the tumor suppressor protein p53 is stabilized and promotes cell cycle arrest. Mutations or epigenetic alterations of the INK4a/Arf locus are second only to p53 mutations in cancer cells, and in some cancers, alterations in both Arf and p53 observed, suggesting that these two tumor suppressors act coordinately to prevent unwarranted cell growth and proliferation. The aim of this review is to characterize the current knowledge in the field about both p53-dependent and independent functions of ARF as well as to summarize the present models for how ARF might control rates of cell proliferation and/or macromolecular synthesis. We will discuss potential therapeutic targets in the ARF pathway, and some preliminary attempts at enhancing or restoring the activity of this important tumor suppressor.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1815-1827
Number of pages13
JournalCurrent Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number17
StatePublished - Jul 2007


  • ARF
  • Mdm2
  • Nucleolus
  • Nucleophosmin
  • Ribosome biogenesis
  • p53


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