The retinoblastoma gene product (pRB) participates in the regulation of the cell division cycle through complex formation with numerous cellular regulatory proteins including the potentially oncogenic cyclin D1. Extending the current view of the emerging functional interplay between pRB and D-type cyclins, we now report that cyclin D1 expression is positively regulated by pRB. Cyclin D1 mRNA and protein is specifically downregulated in cells expressing SV40 large T antigen, adenovirus E1A, and papillomavirus E7/E6 oncogene products and this effect requires intact RB-binding, CR2 domain of E1A. Exceptionally low expression of cyclin D1 is also seen in genetically RB-deficient cell lines, in which ectopically expressed wild-type pRB results in specific induction of this G1 cyclin. At the functional level, antibody-mediated cyclin D1 knockout experiments demonstrate that the cyclin D1 protein, normally required for G1 progression, is dispensable for passage through the cell cycle in cell lines whose pRB is inactivated through complex formation with T antigen, E1A, or E7 oncoproteins as well as in cells which have suffered loss-of-function mutations of the RB gene. The requirement for cyclin D1 function is not regained upon experimental elevation of cyclin D1 expression in cells with mutant RB, while reintroduction of wild-type RB into RB-deficient cells leads to restoration of the cyclin D1 checkpoint. These results strongly suggest that pRB serves as a major target of cyclin D1 whose cell cycle regulatory function becomes dispensable in cells lacking functional RB. Based on available data including this study, we propose a model for an autoregulatory feedback loop mechanism that regulates both the expression of the cyclin D1 gene and the activity of pRB, thereby contributing to a G1 phase checkpoint control in cycling mammalian cells.

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