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Mutat Res. 2004 Feb 26;546(1-2):7-15.

Phosphorylation and nuclear accumulation are distinct events contributing to the activation of p53.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-0936, USA.


It has been recently shown that ionizing radiation (IR) and the mRNA synthesis inhibitor 5,6-dichloro-1-b-D-ribofuranosylbenzimidazole (DRB) act in synergy to induce p53-mediated transactivation of reporter plasmids in human cells [Oncogene 19 (2000) 3829]. We have extended these studies and show that ionizing radiation and DRB also act in synergy to induce ATM-mediated phosphorylation of the ser15 site of p53 and enhance the expression of endogenous p21 protein. Examination of the localization of p53 revealed that while DRB did not induce phosphorylation of the ser15 site of p53 but efficiently accumulated p53 in the nucleus, ionizing radiation induced phosphorylation of the ser15 site of p53 without prolonged nuclear accumulation. Importantly, the combination of DRB and IR resulted in a strong accumulation of phosphorylated p53 in the nucleus that was more persistent then p53 accumulation after IR alone. Furthermore, the nuclear export inhibitor leptomycin B showed a similar synergy with IR as did DRB regarding ser15 phosphorylation of p53 and p21 induction. These results suggest that the synergistic activation of the p53 response by the combination treatment is due to the activation of two distinct pathways where DRB causes the prolonged nuclear accumulation of p53 while ionizing radiation activates p53 by ATM-mediated phosphorylation.

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