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EMBO J. 1999 Dec 1;18(23):6845-54.

Phosphorylation of human p53 by p38 kinase coordinates N-terminal phosphorylation and apoptosis in response to UV radiation.

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Laboratory of Cell Biology, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Components of the ras signaling pathway contribute to activation of cellular p53. In MCF-7 cells, p38 kinase activated p53 more effectively than other members of the ras pathway. p53 and p38 kinase exist in the same physical complex, and co-expression of p38 stabilized p53 protein. In vitro, p38 kinase phosphorylated p53 at Ser33 and Ser46, a newly identified site. Mutation of these sites decreased p53-mediated and UV-induced apoptosis, and the reduction correlated with total abrogation of UV-induced phosphorylation on Ser37 and a significant decrease in Ser15 phosphorylation in mutant p53 containing alanine at Ser33 and Ser46. Inhibition of p38 activation after UV irradiation decreased phosphorylation of Ser33, Ser37 and Ser15, and also markedly reduced UV-induced apoptosis in a p53-dependent manner. These results suggest that p38 kinase plays a prominent role in an integrated regulation of N-terminal phosphorylation that regulates p53-mediated apoptosis after UV radiation.

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