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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2003 Dec 9;100(25):15065-70. Epub 2003 Nov 21.

P53 hot-spot mutants are resistant to ubiquitin-independent degradation by increased binding to NAD(P)H:quinone oxidoreductase 1.

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Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot 76100, Israel.


Proteasomal degradation of p53 is mediated by two alternative pathways that are either dependent or independent of both Mdm2 and ubiquitin. The ubiquitin-independent pathway is regulated by NAD(P)H: quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) that stabilizes p53. The NQO1 inhibitor dicoumarol induces ubiquitin-independent p53 degradation. We now show that, like dicoumarol, several other coumarin and flavone inhibitors of NQO1 activity, which compete with NAD(P)H for binding to NQO1, induced ubiquitin-independent p53 degradation and inhibited wild-type p53-mediated apoptosis. Although wild-type p53 and several p53 mutants were sensitive to dicoumarol-induced degradation, the most frequent "hot-spot" p53 mutants in human cancer, R175H, R248H, and R273H, were resistant to dicoumarol-induced degradation, but remained sensitive to Mdm2-ubiquitin-mediated degradation. The two alternative pathways for p53 degradation thus have different p53 structural requirements. Further mutational analysis showed that arginines at positions 175 and 248 were essential for dicoumarol-induced p53 degradation. NQO1 bound to wild-type p53 and dicoumarol, which induced a conformational change in NQO1, inhibited this binding. Compared with wild-type p53, the hot-spot p53 mutants showed increased binding to NQO1, which can explain their resistance to dicoumarol-induced degradation. NQO1 thus has an important role in stabilizing hot-spot p53 mutant proteins in human cancer.

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