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J Biol Chem. 1999 May 21;274(21):15237-44.

p53 suppresses the activation of the Bcl-2 promoter by the Brn-3a POU family transcription factor.

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Department of Molecular Pathology, Windeyer Institute of Medical Sciences, University College London Medical School, Windeyer Building, 46 Cleveland Street, London W1P 6DB, United Kingdom.


The Brn-3a POU family transcription factor has been shown to strongly activate expression of the Bcl-2 proto-oncogene and thereby protect neuronal cells from programmed cell death (apoptosis). This activation of the Bcl-2 promoter by Brn-3a is strongly inhibited by the p53 anti-oncogene protein. This inhibitory effect of p53 on Brn-3a-mediated transactivation is observed with nonoverlapping gene fragments containing either the Bcl-2 p1 or p2 promoters but is not observed with other Brn-3a-activated promoters such as in the gene encoding alpha-internexin or with an isolated Brn-3a binding site from the Bcl-2 promoter linked to a heterologous promoter. In contrast, p53 mutants, which are incapable of binding to DNA, do not affect Brn-3a-mediated activation of the Bcl-2 p1 and p2 promoters. Moreover, Brn-3a and p53 have been shown to bind to adjacent sites in the p2 promoter and to directly interact with one another, both in vitro and in vivo, with this interaction being mediated by the POU domain of Brn-3a and the DNA binding domain of p53. The significance of these effects is discussed in terms of the antagonistic effects of Bcl-2 and p53 on the rate of apoptosis and the overexpression of Brn-3a in specific tumor cell types.

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