PTEN inhibits BMI1 function independently of its phosphatase activity.BACKGROUND:PTEN is the second most mutated tumor suppressor gene other than p53. It suppresses tumorigenesis by dephosphorylating phosphatidylinositol (3,4,5)-triphosphate (PIP3) to phosphatidylinositol (4,5)-biphosphate (PIP2), thereby directly inhibiting phosphatidylinositol 3 kinase (PI3K)-mediated tumorigenic activities. Consistent with this model of action, cytosolic PTEN is recruited to the plasma membrane to dephosphorylate PIP3. While nuclear PTEN has been shown to suppress tumorigenesis by governing genome integrity, additional mechanisms may also contribute to nuclear PTEN-mediated tumor suppression. The nuclear protein BMI1 promotes stem cell self-renewal and tumorigenesis and PTEN inhibits these events, suggesting that PTEN may suppress BMI1 function.RESULTS:We investigated whether PTEN inhibits BMI1 function during prostate tumorigenesis. PTEN binds to BMI1 exclusively in the nucleus. This interaction does not require PTEN's phosphatase activity, as phosphatase-deficient PTEN mutants, PTEN/C124S (CS), PTEN/G129E (GE), and a C-terminal PTEN fragment (C-PTEN) excluding the catalytic domain, all associate with BMI1. Furthermore, the residues 186-286 of C-PTEN are sufficient for binding to BMI1. This interaction reduces BMI1's function. BMI1 enhances hTERT activity and reduces p16(INK4A) and p14(ARF) expression. These effects were attenuated by PTEN, PTEN(CS), PTEN(GE), and C-PTEN. Furthermore, knockdown of PTEN in DU145 cells increased hTERT promoter activity, which was reversed when BMI1 was concomitantly knocked-down, indicating that PTEN reduces hTERT promoter activity via inhibiting BMI1 function. Conversely, BMI1 reduces PTEN's ability to inhibit AKT activation, which can be attributed to its interaction with PTEN in the nucleus, making PTEN unavailable to dephosphorylate membrane-bound PIP3. Furthermore, BMI1 appears to co-localize with PTEN more frequently in clinical prostate tissue samples from patients diagnosed with PIN (prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia) and carcinoma compared to normal prostate epithelium. While PTEN co-localized with BMI1 in 2.4% of normal prostate epithelial cells, co-localization was observed in 37.6% and 18.5% of cells in PIN and carcinoma, respectively. Collectively, we demonstrate that PTEN inhibits BMI1 function via binding to BMI1 in a phosphatase independent manner.CONCLUSION:We demonstrate that nuclear PTEN reduces BMI1 function independently of its phosphatase activity. It was recently observed that nuclear PTEN also suppresses tumorigenesis. Our results, therefore, provide a plausible mechanism by which nuclear PTEN prevents tumorigenesis.