Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
BMC Cancer. 2011 Feb 21;11:79. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-11-79.

A p53-independent role for the MDM2 antagonist Nutlin-3 in DNA damage response initiation.

Author information

  • 1DNA Damage Response Group, Basic Medical Science Department, St George's University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London, UK.



The mammalian DNA-damage response (DDR) has evolved to protect genome stability and maximize cell survival following DNA-damage. One of the key regulators of the DDR is p53, itself tightly regulated by MDM2. Following double-strand DNA breaks (DSBs), mediators including ATM are recruited to the site of DNA-damage. Subsequent phosphorylation of p53 by ATM and ATM-induced CHK2 results in p53 stabilization, ultimately intensifying transcription of p53-responsive genes involved in DNA repair, cell-cycle checkpoint control and apoptosis.


In the current study, we investigated the stabilization and activation of p53 and associated DDR proteins in response to treatment of human colorectal cancer cells (HCT116p53+/+) with the MDM2 antagonist, Nutlin-3.


Using immunoblotting, Nutlin-3 was observed to stabilize p53, and activate p53 target proteins. Unexpectedly, Nutlin-3 also mediated phosphorylation of p53 at key DNA-damage-specific serine residues (Ser15, 20 and 37). Furthermore, Nutlin-3 induced activation of CHK2 and ATM - proteins required for DNA-damage-dependent phosphorylation and activation of p53, and the phosphorylation of BRCA1 and H2AX - proteins known to be activated specifically in response to DNA damage. Indeed, using immunofluorescent labeling, Nutlin-3 was seen to induce formation of γH2AX foci, an early hallmark of the DDR. Moreover, Nutlin-3 induced phosphorylation of key DDR proteins, initiated cell cycle arrest and led to formation of γH2AX foci in cells lacking p53, whilst γH2AX foci were also noted in MDM2-deficient cells.


To our knowledge, this is the first solid evidence showing a secondary role for Nutlin-3 as a DDR triggering agent, independent of p53 status, and unrelated to its role as an MDM2 antagonist.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Images from this publication.See all images (6)Free text

Figure 1
Figure 2
Figure 3
Figure 4
Figure 5
Figure 6
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk