Publication Date



Cancer Discovery


UNLABELLED: Cancer-relevant mutations in the oligomerization domain (OD) of the p53 tumor suppressor protein, unlike those in the DNA binding domain, have not been well elucidated. Here, we characterized the germline OD mutant p53(A347D), which occurs in cancer-prone Li-Fraumeni syndrome (LFS) patients. Unlike wild-type p53, mutant p53(A347D) cannot form tetramers and exists as a hyperstable dimeric protein. Further, p53(A347D) cannot bind or transactivate the majority of canonical p53 target genes. Isogenic cell lines harboring either p53(A347D) or no p53 yield comparable tumorigenic properties, yet p53(A347D) displays remarkable neomorphic activities. Cells bearing p53(A347D) possess a distinct transcriptional profile and undergo metabolic reprogramming. Further, p53(A347D) induces striking mitochondrial network aberration and associates with mitochondria to drive apoptotic cell death upon topoisomerase II inhibition in the absence of transcription. Thus, dimer-forming p53 demonstrates both loss-of-function (LOF) and gain-of-function (GOF) properties compared with the wild-type form of the protein.

SIGNIFICANCE: A mutant p53 (A347D), which can only form dimers, is associated with increased cancer susceptibility in LFS individuals. We found that this mutant wields a double-edged sword, driving tumorigenesis through LOF while gaining enhanced apoptogenic activity as a new GOF, thereby yielding a potential vulnerability to select therapeutic approaches. See related commentary by Stieg et al., p. 1046. See related article by Gencel-Augusto et al., p. 1230. This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1027.


Humans, Li-Fraumeni Syndrome, Transcriptional Activation, Tumor Suppressor Protein p53, Apoptosis, Mitochondria



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