Rescue of embryonic lethality in mdmx null mice by loss of p53 suggests a non-overlapping pathway with MDM2 to regulate p53

John Michael Parant, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


The tumor suppressor p53 is mutated in over 50% of human sporadic tumors originating from diverse tissues. p53 responds to DNA damage and cell stress by activating the transcription of a variety of target genes, the protein products of which then initiate either growth arrest or apoptosis. A p53 target with a particularly intriguing function is the oncogene MDM2. MDM2 functions, in part, by binding to and inhibiting p53's activity. Overexpression of MDM2, by gene amplification, has been found in 30% of human sarcomas harboring a wild type p53, indicating that an increase in MDM2 levels is sufficient for p53 inactivation. Mice carrying a homozygous null allele for mdm2 exhibit an early embryonic lethality that is completely rescued in a p53-null background. These data indicate that MDM2's only critical function in early mouse embryogenesis is the negative regulation of p53. The mdmx gene is the first additional member of the mdm2 gene family to be isolated. MDMX, like MDM2, contains a RING-finger domain, ATP binding domain and a p53 binding domain, which retains the ability to bind and inhibit p53 transactivation in vitro. However, mdmx does not appear to be transcriptionally regulated by p53. We have cloned and characterized the murine mdmx genomic locus from a mouse 129 genomic library. The mdmx gene contains 11 exons, spans approximately 37 Kb of DNA, and is located on mouse chromosome 1. The genomic organization of the mdmx gene is identical to that of mdm2 except at the 5′ end of the gene near the p53 responsive element. Northern expression analysis of mdmx transcripts during mouse embryogenesis and in adult tissues revealed constitutive and ubiquitous expression throughout adult tissues and embryonic development. To determine the in vivo function of MDMX, mice carrying a null allele of mdmx have been generated. Mdmx homozygous null mice are early embryonic lethal. Mdmx null mice do not develop beyond 9.5 dpc and can be discerned by gross dissection as early as 7.5 dpc. Utilizing TUNEL and BrdU assays on 7.5 dpc histological sections we have determined that the mutant embryos are dying due to increased levels of growth arrest, but not apoptosis. Surprisingly, Mdmx homozygous null mice are viable in a p53 null background, indicating that MDMX is also very important in the negative regulation of p53.

Subject Area

Genetics|Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Parant, John Michael, "Rescue of embryonic lethality in mdmx null mice by loss of p53 suggests a non-overlapping pathway with MDM2 to regulate p53" (2001). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3017538.