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J Biol Chem. 2005 Oct 7;280(40):34159-69. Epub 2005 Aug 8.

Full-length p73alpha represses drug-induced apoptosis in small cell lung carcinoma cells.

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  • 1Karolinska Institutet, Institute of Environmental Medicine, S-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.


The p73 gene, a member of the p53 family, encodes several variants through differential splicing and use of alternative promoters. At the NH2 terminus, two different promoters generate the full-length and the DeltaN isoforms, with or without the transactivating domain. At the COOH terminus, seven isoforms generated through alternative splicing have been cloned. Previous studies have demonstrated that DeltaNp73 isoforms exert a dominant-negative effect on p73 by blocking their transactivation activity and hence the ability to induce apoptosis. Considerable efforts are made to identify the functional diversity of the COOH-terminal p73 variants. In this study, we found that p73alpha inhibited drug-induced apoptosis in small cell lung carcinoma cells, whereas p73beta promoted it. p73alpha prevented Bax activation, mitochondrial dysfunction, and caspase activation. In addition, p73alpha was also able to reduce apoptosis induced by the BH3-only protein PUMA (p53 up-regulated modulator of apoptosis). Furthermore, we discovered that p73alpha is able to inhibit the pro-apoptotic effect of p73beta, demonstrating the existence of equilibrium between these two p73 isoforms. In conclusion, the reported overexpression of p73alpha in certain tumor types, and our findings that p73alpha exerts anti-apoptotic functions, indicate a potential oncogenic activity for p73.

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