Origin of bistability underlying mammalian cell cycle entry

Guang Yao, Cheemeng Tan, Mike West, Joseph R. Nevins, Lingchong You

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Precise control of cell proliferation is fundamental to tissue homeostasis and differentiation. Mammalian cells commit to proliferation at the restriction point (R-point). It has long been recognized that the R-point is tightly regulated by the Rb-E2F signaling pathway. Our recent work has further demonstrated that this regulation is mediated by a bistable switch mechanism. Nevertheless, the essential regulatory features in the Rb-E2F pathway that create this switching property have not been defined. Here we analyzed a library of gene circuits comprising all possible link combinations in a simplified Rb-E2F network. We identified a minimal circuit that is able to generate robust, resettable bistability. This minimal circuit contains a feed-forward loop coupled with a mutual-inhibition feedback loop, which forms an AND-gate control of the E2F activation. Underscoring its importance, experimental disruption of this circuit abolishes maintenance of the activated E2F state, supporting its importance for the bistability of the Rb-E2F system. Our findings suggested basic design principles for the robust control of the bistable cell cycle entry at the R-point.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number485
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
StatePublished - 2011


  • RbE2F pathway
  • bistable switch
  • cell cycle checkpoint
  • design principle
  • robustness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Applied Mathematics


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