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PLoS One. 2010 Aug 23;5(8):e12341. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0012341.

Cyclin B1/Cdk1 phosphorylation of mitochondrial p53 induces anti-apoptotic response.

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Department of Radiation Oncology, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, United States of America.


The pro-apoptotic function of p53 has been well defined in preventing genomic instability and cell transformation. However, the intriguing fact that p53 contributes to a pro-survival advantage of tumor cells under DNA damage conditions raises a critical question in radiation therapy for the 50% human cancers with intact p53 function. Herein, we reveal an anti-apoptotic role of mitochondrial p53 regulated by the cell cycle complex cyclin B1/Cdk1 in irradiated human colon cancer HCT116 cells with p53(+/+) status. Steady-state levels of p53 and cyclin B1/Cdk1 were identified in the mitochondria of many human and mouse cells, and their mitochondrial influx was significantly enhanced by radiation. The mitochondrial kinase activity of cyclin B1/Cdk1 was found to specifically phosphorylate p53 at Ser-315 residue, leading to enhanced mitochondrial ATP production and reduced mitochondrial apoptosis. The improved mitochondrial function can be blocked by transfection of mutant p53 Ser-315-Ala, or by siRNA knockdown of cyclin B1 and Cdk1 genes. Enforced translocation of cyclin B1 and Cdk1 into mitochondria with a mitochondrial-targeting-peptide increased levels of Ser-315 phosphorylation on mitochondrial p53, improved ATP production and decreased apoptosis by sequestering p53 from binding to Bcl-2 and Bcl-xL. Furthermore, reconstitution of wild-type p53 in p53-deficient HCT116 p53(-/-) cells resulted in an increased mitochondrial ATP production and suppression of apoptosis. Such phenomena were absent in the p53-deficient HCT116 p53(-/-) cells reconstituted with the mutant p53. These results demonstrate a unique anti-apoptotic function of mitochondrial p53 regulated by cyclin B1/Cdk1-mediated Ser-315 phosphorylation in p53-wild-type tumor cells, which may provide insights for improving the efficacy of anti-cancer therapy, especially for tumors that retain p53.

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