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Nat Rev Mol Cell Biol. 2008 Sep;9(9):702-12. doi: 10.1038/nrm2451.

A complex barcode underlies the heterogeneous response of p53 to stress.

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Nuffield Department of Clinical Medicine, Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research Ltd, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


The tumour suppressor p53 is activated following stress and initiates a heterogeneous response in a cell-, tissue- and stress-dependent manner. This heterogeneity is reflected in the different physiological outcomes that follow p53 activation. One mechanism that may contribute to this variability is the promoter selectivity of p53 target genes. p53 is at the hub of numerous signalling pathways that are triggered in response to particular stresses, all of which can leave their mark on p53 by way of post-translational modifications and interactions with cofactors. The precise combination of these marks, much like the bars in a barcode, dictates the behaviour of p53 in any given situation.

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