The human BTG1 protein is thought to be a potential tumour suppressor because its overexpression inhibits NIH 3T3 cell proliferation. However, little is known about how BTG1 exerts its anti-proliferative activity. In this study, we used the yeast ‘two-hybrid ’ system to screen for interacting protein partners and identified human carbon catabolite repressor protein (CCR4)-associative factor 1 (hCAF-1), a homologue of mouse CAF-1 (mCAF-1) and Saccharomyces cerevisiae yCAF-1/POP2. In vitro the hCAF-1/BTG1 complex formation was dependent on the phosphorylation of a putative p34cdc2 kinase site on BTG1 (Ser-159). In yeast, the Ala-159 mutant did not interact with hCAF-1. In addition, phosphorylation of Ser-159 in vitro showed specificity for the cell cycle kinases p34CDK2/cyclin E and p34CDK2/cyclin A, but not for p34CDK4/cyclin D1 or p34cdc2/cyclin B. Cell synchrony experiments with primary cultures of rat aortic smooth-muscle cells (RSMCs) demonstrated that message and protein levels of rat CAF-1 (rCAF-1) were up-regulated under conditions of cell contact, as previously reported for BTG1 [Wilcox, Scott, Subramanian, Ross, Adams-Burton, Stoltenborg and Corjay (1995) Circulation 92, I34–I35]. Western blot and immunohistochemical analysis showed that rCAF-1 localizes to the nucleus of contact-inhibited RSMCs, where it was physically associated with BTG1, as determined by co-immunoprecipitation with anti-hCAF-1 antisera. Overexpression of hCAF-1 in NIH 3T3 and osteosarcoma (U-2-OS) cells was itself anti-proliferative with colony formation reduced by 67% and 90% respectively. Taken together, these results indicate that formation of the hCAF-1/BTG1 complex is driven by phosphorylation at BTG1 (Ser-159) and implicates this complex in the signalling events of cell division that lead to changes in cellular proliferation associated with cell–cell contact.
The nucleotide sequence data reported will appear in DDBJ, EMBL and GenBank Nucleotide Sequence Databases under the accession number L46722.