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Cell Cycle. 2012 Mar 1;11(5):953-62. doi: 10.4161/cc.11.5.19445. Epub 2012 Mar 1.

Mutational analysis of Mdm2 C-terminal tail suggests an evolutionarily conserved role of its length in Mdm2 activity toward p53 and indicates structural differences between Mdm2 homodimers and Mdm2/MdmX heterodimers.

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Department of Biology, Faculty of Medicine, Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic.


Mdm2 can mediate p53 ubiquitylation and degradation either in the form of the Mdm2 homodimer or Mdm2/MdmX heterodimer. The ubiquitin ligase activity of these complexes resides mainly in their respective RING finger domains and also requires adjacent C-terminal tails. So far, structural studies have failed to show significant differences between Mdm2 RING homodimers and Mdm2/MdmX RING heterodimers. Here, we report that not only the primary amino acid sequence, but also the length of the C-terminal tail of Mdm2 is highly conserved through evolution and plays an important role in Mdm2 activity toward p53. Mdm2 mutants with extended C termini do not ubiquitylate p53 despite being capable of forming Mdm2 homodimers through both RING-acidic domain and RING-RING interactions. All extended mutants also retained the ability to interact with MdmX, and this interaction led to reactivation of their E3 ubiquitin ligase activity. In contrast, only a subset of extended Mdm2 mutants was activated by the interaction with Mdm2 RING domain, suggesting that Mdm2 homodimers and Mdm2/MdmX heterodimers may not be structurally and functionally fully equivalent.

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