How cell division (and thus tissue growth) is controlled is very complex. The following terms are some of the features that are important in regulation, and places where errors can lead to cancer. Cancer is a disease where regulation of the cell cycle goes awry and normal cell growth and behavior is lost.
Cdk (cyclin dependent kinase, adds phosphate to a protein), along with cyclins, are major control switches for the cell cycle, causing the cell to move from G1 to S or G2 to M.
MPF (Maturation Promoting Factor) includes the CdK and cyclins that triggers progression through the cell cycle.
p53 is a protein that functions to block the cell cycle if the DNA is damaged. If the damage is severe this protein can cause apoptosis (cell death).
- p53 levels are increased in damaged cells. This allows time to repair DNA by blocking the cell cycle.
- A p53 mutation is the most frequent mutation leading to cancer. An extreme case of this is Li Fraumeni syndrome, where a genetic a defect in p53 leads to a high frequency of cancer in affected individuals.
p27 is a protein that binds to cyclin and cdk blocking entry into S phase. Recent research (Nature Medicine 3, 152 (1997)) suggests that breast cancer prognosis is determined by p27 levels. Reduced levels of p27 predict a poor outcome for breast cancer patients.