OBJECTIVES: Expression of the nuclear Ki-67 protein (pKi-67) is strongly associated with cell proliferation. For this reason, antibodies against this protein are widely used as prognostic tools for the assessment of cell proliferation in biopsies from cancer patients. Despite this broad application in histopathology, functional evidence for the physiological role of pKi-67 is still missing. Recently, we proposed a function of pKi-67 in the early steps of ribosomal RNA (rRNA) synthesis. Here, we have examined the involvement of pKi-67 in this process by photochemical inhibition using chromophore-assisted light inactivation (CALI).
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Anti-pKi-67 antibodies were labelled with the fluorochrome fluorescein 5(6)-isothiocyanate and were irradiated after binding to their target protein.
RESULTS: Performing CALI in vitro on cell lysates led to specific cross-linking of pKi-67. Moreover, the upstream binding factor (UBF) necessary for rRNA transcription was also partly subjected to cross-link formation, indicating a close spatial proximity of UBF and pKi-67. CALI in living cells, using micro-injected antibody, caused a striking relocalization of UBF from foci within the nucleoli to spots located at the nucleolar rim or within the nucleoplasm. pKi-67-CALI resulted in dramatic inhibition of RNA polymerase I-dependent nucleolar rRNA synthesis, whereas RNA polymerase II-dependent nucleoplasmic RNA synthesis remained almost unaltered.
CONCLUSIONS: Our data presented here argue for a crucial role of pKi-67 in RNA polymerase I-dependent nucleolar rRNA synthesis.