The expression level of cyclin D1 plays a vital role in the control of proliferation. This protein is reported to be degraded following phosphorylation by glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) on Thr-286. We recently showed that phosphorylation of Thr-286 is responsible for a decline in cyclin D1 levels during S phase, an event required for efficient DNA synthesis. These studies were undertaken to test the possibility that phosphorylation by GSK3 is responsible for the S phase specific decline in cyclin D1 levels, and that this event is regulated by the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/AKT signaling pathway which controls GSK3.
We found, however, that neither PI3K, AKT, GSK3, nor proliferative signaling activity in general is responsible for the S phase decline in cyclin D1 levels. In fact, the activity of these signaling kinases does not vary through the cell cycle of proliferating cells. Moreover, we found that GSK3 activity has little influence over cyclin D1 expression levels during any cell cycle phase. Inhibition of GSK3 activity by siRNA, LiCl, or other chemical inhibitors failed to influence cyclin D1 phosphorylation on Thr-286, even though LiCl efficiently blocked phosphorylation of β-catenin, a known substrate of GSK3. Likewise, the expression of a constitutively active GSK3 mutant protein failed to influence cyclin D1 phosphorylation or total protein expression level.
Because we were unable to identify any proliferative signaling molecule or pathway which is regulated through the cell cycle, or which is able to influence cyclin D1 levels, we conclude that the suppression of cyclin D1 levels during S phase is regulated by cell cycle position rather than signaling activity. We propose that this mechanism guarantees the decline in cyclin D1 levels during each S phase; and that in so doing it reduces the likelihood that simple over expression of cyclin D1 can lead to uncontrolled cell growth.