p27kip1: a new multiple endocrine neoplasia gene?Neuroendocrinology. 2011; 93(1):19-28.N
Multiple endocrine neoplasias (MEN) are autosomal dominant disorders characterized by the occurrence of tumors in at least two endocrine glands. Two types of MEN syndromes have long been known: MEN type 1 (MEN1) and MEN type 2 (MEN2), associated with a different spectrum of affected organs. MEN1 and MEN2 are caused by germline mutations in the MEN1 tumor suppressor gene and the RET proto-oncogene, respectively. Lately, a new type of MEN was identified (named MEN4) which is due to mutations in the CDKN1B gene, encoding for p27kip1 (p27), a cyclin-dependent kinase (Cdk) inhibitor that regulates the transition of cells from G1 to S phase. p27 is a non-canonical tumor suppressor since it is usually not somatically mutated in human cancers but it is often downregulated by post-translational mechanisms. The discovery of MEN4 has defined a new role for CDKN1B as a tumor susceptibility gene for multiple endocrine tumors. To date, six germline CDKN1B mutations have been found in patients with a MEN1-like phenotype but negative for MEN1 mutations. Due to the limited number of patients so far identified, the phenotypic features of MEN4 are not clearly defined. Here, we review the clinical and molecular characteristics of the MEN4 syndrome and summarize the main functions of p27 to better comprehend how their alteration can predispose to neuroendocrine tumors.