An Opposite Effect of the CDK Inhibitor, p18INK4c on Embryonic Stem Cells Compared with Tumor and Adult Stem Cells

Yanxin Li, Rekha Pal, Li Ying Sung, Haizhong Feng, Weimin Miao, Shi Yuan Cheng, Cindy Tian, Tao Cheng*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Self-renewal is a feature common to both adult and embryonic stem (ES) cells, as well as tumor stem cells (TSCs). The cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p18INK4c, is a known tumor suppressor that can inhibit self-renewal of tumor cells or adult stem cells. Here, we demonstrate an opposite effect of p18 on ES cells in comparison with teratoma cells. Our results unexpectedly showed that overexpression of p18 accelerated the growth of mouse ES cells and embryonic bodies (EB); on the contrary, inhibited the growth of late stage teratoma. Up-regulation of ES cell markers (i.e., Oct4, Nanog, Sox2, and Rex1) were detected in both ES and EB cells, while concomitant down-regulation of various differentiation markers was observed in EB cells. These results demonstrate that p18 has an opposite effect on ES cells as compared with tumor cells and adult stem cells. Mechanistically, expression of CDK4 was significantly increased with overexpression of p18 in ES cells, likely leading to a release of CDK2 from the inhibition by p21 and p27. As a result, self-renewal of ES cells was enhanced. Our current study suggests that targeting p18 in different cell types may yield different outcomes, thereby having implications for therapeutic manipulations of cell cycle machinery in stem cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere45212
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 26 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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