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J Biol Chem. 2004 Feb 27;279(9):7598-605. Epub 2003 Dec 9.

Regulation of p53 stability and function in HCT116 colon cancer cells.

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  • 1Oncogene Group, Swiss Institute for Experimental Cancer Research, Ch des Boveresses 155, 1066 Epalinges, Switzerland.


We have used a lentiviral vector to stably express p53 at a physiological level in p53 knockout HCT116 cells. Cells transduced with wild type p53 responded to genotoxic stress by stabilizing p53 and expressing p53 target genes. The reconstituted cells underwent G(1) arrest or apoptosis appropriately depending on the type of stress, albeit less efficiently than parental wild type cells. Compared with cells expressing exogenous wild type p53, the apoptotic response to 5-fluorouracil (5FU) was >50% reduced in cells expressing S15A or S20A mutant p53, and even more reduced by combined mutation of serines 6, 9, 15, 20, 33, and 37 (N6A). Among a panel of p53 target genes tested by quantitative PCR, the gene showing the largest defect in induction by 5FU was BBC3 (PUMA), which was induced 4-fold by wild type p53 and 2-fold by the N6A mutant. Mutation of N-terminal phosphorylation sites did not prevent p53 stabilization by doxorubicin or 5FU. MDM2 silencing by RNA interference activated p53 target gene expression in normal fibroblasts but not in HCT116 cells, and exogenous p53 could be stabilized in HCT116 knockout cells despite combined mutation of p53 phosphorylation sites and silencing of MDM2 expression. The MDM2 feedback loop is thus defective, and other mechanisms must exist to regulate p53 stability and function in this widely used tumor cell line.

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