The p53 protein – not only the guardian of the genome


  • Marek Rusin Center for Translational Research and Molecular Biology of Cancer, Maria Skłodowska-Curie National Research Institute of Oncology, Gliwice Branch, Gliwice, Poland



The p53 tumor suppressor protein is best known as an activator of cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Only a fraction of p53-activated genes encode proteins affecting cellular replication and various forms of cell death (apoptosis, ferroptosis, autophagy). The p53-regulated genes can be divided into so-called the core transcriptional program, which comprises genes activated in most cell types by most activators, and into the group of genes activated in in cell- or stress-specific manner. Activation of p53 occurs via the extensive set of posttranslational modifications, which adjust its stability, interaction with other transcription regulators, and its ability to form a tetramer. Surprisingly, in mouse models, the activation of the best-studied p53 target genes encoding the inhibitor of the cell cycle (CDKN1A) or the inducers of apoptosis (e.g. NOXAPUMA) is dispensable for protection against cancers. Thus, the non-classical functions of p53 must be studied to better understand its tumor suppressive mechanisms.


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