Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Raj Rao


Cyclin Dependent Kinase-2 Associated Protein-1 (CDK2AP1) plays an important role in cell cycle regulation, by inhibiting CDK2 and by targeting it for proteolysis. It is also known to bind the DNA polymerase alpha-primase complex and regulate the initiation step of DNA synthesis. Its overexpression has been shown to inhibit growth, reduce invasion and increase apoptosis in a number of cancer cell lines. In studies in which mouse embryonic stem cells (mESCs) with targeted deletion of the Cdk2ap1 gene were used, Cdk2ap1 was shown to be required for epigenetic silencing of Oct4 during differentiation. The goal of this thesis was to examine the role of CDK2AP1 in somatic cells (primary human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs)) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and specifically assess its impact on proliferation, self-renewal and differentiation. In the first part of this study, using a short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) approach, we investigated the effect of CDK2AP1 downregulation in HDFs. Outcomes indicated: (a) reduced proliferation, (b) premature senescence, (c) cell cycle alterations, (d) DNA damage, and (e) an increase in p53, p21, and the p53-responsive apoptotic genes BAX and PUMA. Simultaneous downregulation of p53 and CDK2AP1 in HDFs confirmed that observed phenotype was p53 dependent. In the second part of this study, using a shRNA approach, we investigated the role of CDK2AP1 on hESC fate associated with self-renewal and differentiation. We found that CDK2AP1 knockdown in hESCs resulted in: (a) reduced self-renewal (b) enhanced differentiation (c) cell cycle alterations and (d) increase in p53 expression. Results indicate that the knockdown of CDK2AP1 in hESCs enhances differentiation and favors it over a self-renewal fate. Thus, this study has successfully identified novel functions for CDK2AP1, as its knockdown has a significant impact on self-renewal, differentiation and senescence. Results obtained from this study could contribute to development of directed differentiation strategies for generating uniform populations of differentiated phenotypes from hESCs for clinical applications.


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Date of Submission

August 2013