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Mol Cell Biol. 1997 September; 17(9): 5588–5597.
PMCID: PMC232407

High-intensity Raf signal causes cell cycle arrest mediated by p21Cip1.


Activated Raf has been linked to such opposing cellular responses as the induction of DNA synthesis and the inhibition of proliferation. However, it remains unclear how such a switch in signal specificity is regulated. We have addressed this question with a regulatable Raf-androgen receptor fusion protein in murine fibroblasts. We show that Raf can cause a G1-specific cell cycle arrest through induction of p21Cip1. This in turn leads to inhibition of cyclin D- and cyclin E-dependent kinases and an accumulation of hypophosphorylated Rb. Importantly, this behavior can be observed only in response to a strong Raf signal. In contrast, moderate Raf activity induces DNA synthesis and is sufficient to induce cyclin D expression. Therefore, Raf signal specificity can be determined by modulation of signal strength presumably through the induction of distinct protein expression patterns. Similar to induction of Raf, a strong induction of activated Ras via a tetracycline-dependent promoter also causes inhibition of proliferation and p21Cip1 induction at high expression levels. Thus, p21Cip1 plays a key role in determining cellular responses to Ras and Raf signalling. As predicted by this finding we show that Ras and loss of p21 cooperate to confer a proliferative advantage to mouse embryo fibroblasts.

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