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Mol Cell Biol. Nov 1992; 12(11): 5041–5049.
PMCID: PMC360437

Human DNA-activated protein kinase phosphorylates serines 15 and 37 in the amino-terminal transactivation domain of human p53.


Human DNA-PK is a nuclear, serine/threonine protein kinase that, when activated by DNA, phosphorylates several DNA-binding substrates, including the tumor suppressor protein p53. To identify which p53 residues are phosphorylated, we examined DNA-PK's ability to phosphorylate synthetic peptides corresponding to human p53 sequences. Serines 15 and 37 in the amino-terminal transactivation domain of human p53, and serines 7 and 18 of mouse p53, were phosphorylated by DNA-PK in the context of synthetic peptides. Other serines in these p53 peptides, and serines in other p53 peptides, including peptides containing the serine 315 p34cdc2 site and the serine 392 casein kinase II site, were not recognized by DNA-PK or were phosphorylated less efficiently. Phosphorylation of the conserved serine 15 in human p53 peptides depended on the presence of an adjacent glutamine, and phosphorylation was inhibited by the presence of a nearby lysine. Phosphorylation of recombinant wild-type mouse p53 was inhibited at high DNA concentrations, suggesting that DNA-PK may phosphorylate p53 only when both are bound to DNA at nearby sites. Our study suggests that DNA-PK may have a role in regulating cell growth and indicates how phosphorylation of serine 15 in DNA-bound p53 could alter p53 function.

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