Transforming viral proteins such as E1A force cells through the restriction point of the cell cycle into S phase by forming complexes with two cellular proteins: the retinoblastoma protein (Rb), a transcriptional co- repressor, and CBP/p300 (ref. 6), a transcriptional co-activator. These two proteins locally influence chromatin structure: Rb recruits a histone deacetylase, whereas CBP is a histone acetyltransferase. Progression through the restriction point is triggered by phosphorylation of Rb, leading to disruption of Rb-associated repressive complexes and allowing the activation of S-phase genes. Here we show that CBP, like Rb, is controlled by phosphorylation at the G1/S boundary, increasing its histone acetyltransferase activity. This enzymatic activation is mimicked by E1A.
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