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Cancer Res. 2012 Nov 1;72(21):5635-45. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-1451. Epub 2012 Sep 10.

Multiple roles of p53-related pathways in somatic cell reprogramming and stem cell differentiation.

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The Cancer Institute of New Jersey, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, New Jersey 08540, USA.


The inactivation of p53 functions enhances the efficiency and decreases the latency of producing induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC) in culture. The formation of iPSCs in culture starts with a rapid set of cell divisions followed by an epigenetic reprogramming of the DNA and chromatin. The mechanisms by which the p53 protein inhibits the formation of iPSCs are largely unknown. Using a temperature sensitive mutant of the p53 (Trp53) gene, we examined the impact of the temporal expression of wild type p53 in preventing stem cell induction from somatic cells. We also explored how different p53 mutant alleles affect the reprogramming process. We found that little or no p53 activity favors the entire process of somatic cell reprogramming. Reactivation of p53 at any time point during the reprogramming process not only interrupted the formation of iPSCs, but also induced newly formed stem cells to differentiate. Among p53-regulated genes, p21 (Cdkn1a), but not Puma (Bbc3) played a partial role in iPSCs formation probably by slowing cell division. Activation of p53 functions in iPSCs induced senescence and differentiation in stem cell populations. High rate of birth defects and increases in DNA methylation at the IGF2-H19 loci in female offspring of p53 knockout mice suggested that the absence of p53 may give rise to epigenetic instability in a stochastic fashion. Consistently, selected p53 missense mutations showed differential effects on the stem cell reprogramming efficiency in a c-Myc dependent manner. The absence of p53 activity and functions also contributed to an enhanced efficiency of iPSC production from cancer cells. The production of iPSCs in culture from normal and cancer cells, although different from each other in several ways, both responded to the inhibition of reprogramming by the p53 protein.

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