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ABSTRACT: Bmi-1 is a member of the Polycomb Repressor Complex1 that mediates gene silencing by regulating chromatin structure and is indispensable for self-renewal of both normal and cancer stem cells. Despite three decades of research that have elucidated the transcriptional regulation, post-translational modifications and functions of Bmi-1 in regulating the DNA damage response, cellular bioenergetics, and pathologies, the entire potential of a protein with such varied function remains to be realized. This review attempts to synthesize the current knowledge on Bmi-1 with an emphasis on its role in both normal physiology and cancer. Additionally, since cancer stem cells are emerging as a new paradigm for therapy resistance, the role of Bmi-1 in this perspective is also highlighted. The wide spectrum of malignancies that implicate Bmi-1 as a signature for stemness and oncogenesis also make it a suitable candidate for therapy. Nonetheless new approaches are vitally needed to further characterize physiological roles of Bmi-1 with the long-term goal of using Bmi-1 as a prognostic marker and a therapeutic target.
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