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Cancer Res. 2006 Nov 15;66(22):10701-8.

LKB1 is recruited to the p21/WAF1 promoter by p53 to mediate transcriptional activation.

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  • 1Gene Expression and Regulation Program, The Wistar Institute, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Cancer Research Institute, Xiangya School of Medicine, Central South University, Changsha, Hunan Province, P.R. China.


The tumor suppressor LKB1 is an evolutionarily conserved serine/threonine kinase. In humans, LKB1 can be inactivated either by germ-line mutations resulting in Peutz-Jeghers syndrome or by somatic mutations causing predisposition to multiple sporadic cancers. LKB1 has wide-ranging functions involved in tumor suppression and cell homeostasis, including establishing cell polarity, setting energy metabolic balance (via phosphorylation of AMP-dependent kinase), regulating the cell cycle, and promoting apoptosis. LKB1 function was previously linked to the tumor suppressor p53 and shown to activate the p53 target gene p21/WAF1. In this study, we further investigated LKB1 activation of the p21/WAF1 gene and addressed whether LKB1 is directly involved at the gene promoter. We find that, consistent with previous studies, LKB1 stabilizes p53 in vivo, correlating with activation of p21/WAF1. We show that LKB1 physically associates with p53 in the nucleus and directly or indirectly phosphorylates p53 Ser15 (previously shown to be phosphorylated by AMP-dependent kinase) and p53 Ser392. Further, these two p53 residues are required for LKB1-dependent cell cycle G(1) arrest. Chromatin immunoprecipitation analyses show that LKB1 is recruited directly to the p21/WAF1 promoter, as well as to other p53 activated promoters, in a p53-dependent fashion. Finally, a genetic fusion of LKB1 to defective p53, deleted for its activation domains, promotes activation of p21/WAF1. These results indicate that LKB1 has a direct role in activation of p21/WAF1 gene.

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