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Genes Dev. 2008 May 15;22(10):1337-44. doi: 10.1101/gad.1662908.

The inherent instability of mutant p53 is alleviated by Mdm2 or p16INK4a loss.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Genetics, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas 77030, USA.


The p53 tumor suppressor is often disrupted in human cancers by the acquisition of missense mutations. We generated mice with a missense mutation at codon 172 that mimics the p53R175H hot spot mutation in human cancer. p53 homozygous mutant mice have unstable mutant p53 in normal cells and stabilize mutant p53 in some but not all tumors. To investigate the significance of these data, we examined the regulation of mutant p53 stability by Mdm2, an E3 ubiquitin ligase that targets p53 for degradation, and p16INK4a, a member of the Rb tumor suppressor pathway. Mice lacking Mdm2 or p16INK4a stabilized mutant p53, and revealed an earlier age of tumor onset than p53 mutant mice and a gain-of-function metastatic phenotype. Analysis of tumors from p53 homozygous mutant mice with stable p53 revealed defects in the Rb pathway. Additionally, ionizing radiation stabilizes wild-type and mutant p53. Thus, the stabilization of mutant p53 is not a given but it is a prerequisite for its gain-of-function phenotype. Since mutant p53 stability mimics that of wild-type p53, these data indicate that drugs aimed at activating wild-type p53 will also stabilize mutant p53 with dire consequences.

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