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J Biol Chem. 2009 Apr 24;284(17):11171-83. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M809268200. Epub 2009 Mar 5.

p53 acetylation is crucial for its transcription-independent proapoptotic functions.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Pennsylvania State Hershey Cancer Institute, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Hershey, Pennsylvania 17033, USA.


Acetylation of p53 at carboxyl-terminal lysine residues enhances its transcriptional activity associated with cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Here we demonstrate that p53 acetylation at Lys-320/Lys-373/Lys-382 is also required for its transcription-independent functions in BAX activation, reactive oxygen species production, and apoptosis in response to the histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) suberoylanilide hydroxamic acid and LAQ824. Knock-out of p53 markedly reduced HDACi-induced apoptosis. Unexpectedly, expression of transactivation-deficient p53 variants sensitized p53-null cells to HDACi-mediated BAX-dependent apoptosis, whereas knockdown of endogenous mutant p53 in cancer cells reduced HDACi-mediated cytotoxicity. Evaluation of the mechanisms controlling this response led to the discovery of a novel interaction between p53 and Ku70. The association between these two proteins was acetylation-independent, but acetylation of p53 could prevent and disrupt the Ku70-BAX complex and enhance apoptosis. These results suggest a new mechanism of acetylated p53 transcription-independent regulation of apoptosis.

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