Mcl-1 (myeloid cell leukaemia-1) is a Bcl-2 family member with short-term pro-survival functions but whose other functions, demonstrated by embryonic lethality of knockout mice, do not involve apoptosis. In the present study, we show a cell-cycle-regulatory role of Mcl-1 involving a shortened form of the Mcl-1 polypeptide, primarily localized to the nucleus, which we call snMcl-1. snMcl-1 interacts with the cell-cycle-regulatory protein Cdk1 (cyclin-dependent kinase 1; also known as cdc2) in the nucleus, and Cdk1 bound to snMcl-1 was found to have a lower kinase activity. The interaction with Cdk1 occurs in the absence of its cyclin partners and is enhanced on treatment of cells with G2/M blocking agents, but not by G1/S blocking. The snMcl-1 polypeptide is present during S and G2 phases and is negligible in G1. Overexpression of human Mcl-1 in a murine myeloid progenitor cell line resulted in a lower rate of proliferation. Furthermore, Mcl-1-overexpressing cells had lower total Cdk1 kinase activity compared with parental cells, in both anti-Cdk1 and anti-cyclin B1 immunoprecipitates. The latter results suggest that binding to snMcl-1 alters the ability of Cdk1 to bind its conventional partner, cyclin B1. Given the important role of Cdk1 in progression through G2 and M phases, it is probable that the inhibition of Cdk1 activity accounts for the inhibitory effect of Mcl-1 on cell growth.

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