Analysis ofp53 function and regulation

Hongyun Wu, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


p53 is a tumor suppressor gene that is the most frequent target inactivated in cancers. Overexpression of wild-type p53 in rat embryo fibroblasts suppresses foci formation by other cooperating oncogenes. Introduction of wild-type p53 into cells that lack p53 arrests them at the G1/S boundary and reverses the transformed phenotype of some cells. The function of p53 in normal cells is illustrated by the ability of p53 to arrest cells at G1 phase of the cell cycle upon exposure to DNA-damaging agents including UV-irradiation and biosynthesis inhibitors. Since the amino acid sequence of p53 suggested that it may function as a transcription factor, we used GAL4 fusion assays to test that possibility. We found that wild-type p53 could specifically activate transcription when anchored by the GAL4 DNA binding domain. Mutant p53s, which have lost the ability to suppress foci formation by other oncogenes, were not able to activate transcription in this assay. Thus, we established a direct correlation between the tumor suppression and transactivation functions of p53. Having learned that p53 was a transcriptional activator, we next sought targets of p53 activation. Because many transcription factors regulate their own expression, we tested whether p53 had this autoregulatory property. Transient expression of wild-type p53 in cells increased the levels of endogenous p53 mRNA. Cotransfection of p53 together with a reporter bearing the p53 promoter confirmed that wild-type p53 specifically activates its own promoter. Deletion analysis from both the 5$\sp\prime$ and 3$\sp\prime$ ends of the promoter minimized the region responsible for p53 autoregulation to 45 bp. Methylation interference identified nucleotides involved in protein-DNA interaction. Mutations within this protected site specifically eliminated the response of the promoter to p53. In addition, multiple copies of this element confer responsiveness to wild-type p53 expression. Thus, we identified a F53 responsive element within the p53 promoter. The presence of a consensus NF-$\kappa$B site in the p53 promoter suggested that NF-KB may regulate p53 expression. Gel-shift experiments showed that both the p50 homodimer and the p50/p65 heterodimer bind to the p53 promoter. In addition, the p65 subunit of NF-$\kappa$B activates the p53 promoter in transient transfection experiments. TNF $\alpha$, a natural NF-$\kappa$B inducer, also activates the p53 promoter. Both p65 activation and TNF $\alpha$ induction require an intact NF-$\kappa$B site in the p53 promoter. Since NF-$\kappa$B activation occurs as a response to stress and p53 arrests cells in G1/S, where DNA repair occurs, activation of p53 by NF-$\kappa$B could be a mechanism by which cells recover from stress. In conclusion, we provided the first data that wild-type p53 functions as a transcriptional activator, whereas mutant p53 cannot. The correlation between growth suppression and transcriptional activation by p53 implies a pathway of tumor suppression. We have analyzed upstream components of the pathway by the identification of both p53 and NF-$\kappa$B as regulators of the p53 promoter.

Subject Area

Molecular biology

Recommended Citation

Wu, Hongyun, "Analysis ofp53 function and regulation" (1994). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9426539.