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Mol Cell Biol. Jan 1997; 17(1): 389–397.
PMCID: PMC231763

Inhibition of DNA topoisomerase II alpha gene expression by the p53 tumor suppressor.


DNA topoisomerase II (topo II) is an essential nuclear enzyme involved in major cellular functions such as DNA replication, transcription, recombination, and mitosis. While an elevated level of topo II alpha is associated with cell proliferation, wild-type (wt) p53 inhibits the expression of various growth-stimulatory genes. To determine if p53 downregulates topo II alpha gene expression, a murine cell line, (10)1val, that expresses a temperature-sensitive p53 was utilized. The (10)1val cells had significantly lower levels of topo II alpha mRNA and protein following incubation for 24 h at 32 degrees C (p53 with wt conformation) than at 39 degrees C (p53 with mutant conformation). The effect of p53 on the human topo II alpha gene promoter was determined by using luciferase reporter plasmids containing varying lengths of the topo II alpha promoter transiently cotransfected into p53-deficient (10)1 cells together with wt or mutant p53 expression plasmids. Transcription from the full-length (bp -557 to +90) topo II alpha promoter was decreased 15-fold by wt p53 in a concentration-dependent manner, whereas mutant p53 exerted much weaker inhibition. Consecutive deletion of the five inverted CCAAT elements (ICEs) from the topo II alpha promoter reduced both the basal promoter activity and wt p53-induced suppression. Transcription of the minimal promoter (-32 to +90), which contains no ICE, was slightly stimulated by wt or mutant p53 expression. When point mutations were introduced into the most proximal ICE (-68), the inhibitory effect of wt p53 was alleviated and stimulation of topo II alpha expression resulted. Our study suggests that wt p53 functions as a transcriptional repressor of topo II alpha gene expression, possibly through a functional interaction with specific ICEs. Inactivation of wt p53 may reduce normal regulatory suppression of topo II alpha and contribute to abortive cell cycle checkpoints, accelerated cell proliferation, and alterations in genomic stability associated with neoplasia.

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