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J Biol Chem. 1999 Jun 11;274(24):17003-10.

Physical interaction and functional antagonism between the RNA polymerase II elongation factor ELL and p53.

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Departments of Viral Oncology, Cancer Institute, Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, 1-37-1 Kami-Ikebukuro, Toshima-ku, Tokyo 170-8455, Japan.


ELL was originally identified as a gene that undergoes translocation with the trithorax-like MLL gene in acute myeloid leukemia. Recent studies have shown that the gene product, ELL, functions as an RNA polymerase II elongation factor that increases the rate of transcription by RNA polymerase II by suppressing transient pausing. Using yeast two-hybrid screening with ELL as bait, we isolated the p53 tumor suppressor protein as a specific interactor of ELL. The interaction involves respectively the transcription elongation activation domain of ELL and the C-terminal tail of p53. Through this interaction, ELL inhibits both sequence-specific transactivation and sequence-independent transrepression by p53. Thus, ELL acts as a negative regulator of p53 in transcription. Conversely, p53 inhibits the transcription elongation activity of ELL, suggesting that p53 is capable of regulating general transcription by RNA polymerase II through controlling the ELL activity. Elevated levels of ELL in cells resulted in the inhibition of p53-dependent induction of endogenous p21 and substantially protected cells from p53-mediated apoptosis that is induced by genotoxic stress. Our observations indicate the existence of a mutually inhibitory interaction between p53 and a general transcription elongation factor ELL and raise the possibility that an aberrant interaction between p53 and ELL may play a role in the genesis of leukemias carrying MLL-ELL gene translocations.

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