We have developed methodology to identify the block to anchorage-independent growth and position it within the fibroblast cell cycle. Results with NRK fibroblasts show that mitogen stimulation of the G0/G1 transition and G1-associated increases in cell size are minimally affected by loss of cell anchorage. In contrast, the induction of G1/S cell cycle genes and DNA synthesis is markedly inhibited when anchorage is blocked. Moreover, we demonstrate that the anchorage-dependent transition maps to late G1 and shortly before activation of the G1/S p34cdc2-like kinase. The G1/S block was also detectable in NIH-3T3 cells. Our results: (a) distinguish control of cell cycle progression by growth factors and anchorage; (b) indicate that anchorage mediates G1/S control in fibroblasts; and (c) identify a physiologic circumstance in which the phenotype of mammalian cell cycle arrest would closely resemble Saccharomyces cerevisiae START. The close correlation between anchorage independence in vitro and tumorigenicity in vivo emphasizes the key regulatory role for G1/S control in mammalian cells.

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