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J Biol Chem. 2009 Jun 12;284(24):16409-18. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M109.005736. Epub 2009 Apr 14.

Nucleophosmin blocks mitochondrial localization of p53 and apoptosis.

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Graduate Center for Toxicology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, USA.


Activation of p53 is an important mechanism in apoptosis. However, whether the presence of p53 in mitochondria plays an important role in p53-mediated apoptosis is unclear. Here, we demonstrate that overexpression of NPM (nucleophosmin) significantly suppresses 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol 13-acetate (TPA)-mediated apoptosis, in part, by blocking the mitochondrial localization of p53. Within 1 h following TPA treatment of skin epithelial (JB6) cells, p53 accumulated in mitochondria. Expression of NPM enhances p53 levels in the nucleus but reduces p53 levels in mitochondria, as detected by immunocytochemistry and Western blot analysis. The suppressive effect of NPM on p53 mitochondrial localization is also observed in TPA-treated primary epithelial cells and in JB6 cells treated with doxorubicin. NPM enhances the expression of p53 target gene p21 and bax. However, the increase in Bax level in the absence of p53 in mitochondria did not lead to an increase in TPA-induced apoptosis, suggesting that the presence of p53 in mitochondria is important. Suppression of NPM by NPM small interfering RNA leads to an increase of p53 levels in mitochondria and apoptosis. Furthermore, suppression of NPM in tumor cells with a high constitutive level of NPM results in p53 translocation to mitochondria and enhances TPA-mediated apoptosis. The results demonstrate the effect of NPM on p53 localization in mitochondria and apoptosis. Together, the data indicate that the presence of p53 in mitochondria plays an important role in stress-induced apoptosis and suggest that NPM may protect cells from apoptosis by reducing the mitochondrial level of p53.

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