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Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2010 Aug;2(8):a000935. doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a000935. Epub 2010 Apr 28.

Transcriptional regulation by p53.

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  • 1Department of Biological Sciences, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, USA.


Inactivation of p53 is critical for the formation of most tumors. Illumination of the key function(s) of p53 protein in protecting cells from becoming cancerous is therefore a worthy goal. Arguably p53's most important function is to act as a transcription factor that directly regulates perhaps several hundred of the cell's RNA polymerase II (RNAP II)-transcribed genes, and indirectly regulates thousands of others. Indeed p53 is the most well studied mammalian transcription factor. The p53 tetramer binds to its response element where it can recruit diverse transcriptional coregulators such as histone modifying enzymes, chromatin remodeling factors, subunits of the mediator complex, and components of general transcription machinery and preinitiation complex (PIC) to modulate RNAPII activity at target loci (Laptenko and Prives 2006). The p53 transcriptional program is regulated in a stimulus-specific fashion (Murray-Zmijewski et al. 2008; Vousden and Prives 2009), whereby distinct subsets of p53 target genes are induced in response to different p53-activating agents, likely allowing cells to tailor their response to different types of stress. How p53 is able to discriminate between these different loci is the subject of intense research. Here, we describe key aspects of the fundamentals of p53-mediated transcriptional regulation and target gene promoter selectivity.

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