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Prion. 2014 Jan-Feb;8(1):75-84.

The aggregation of mutant p53 produces prion-like properties in cancer.

Abstract

The tumor suppressor protein p53 loses its function in more than 50% of human malignant tumors. Recent studies have suggested that mutant p53 can form aggregates that are related to loss-of-function effects, negative dominance and gain-of-function effects and cancers with a worsened prognosis. In recent years, several degenerative diseases have been shown to have prion-like properties similar to mammalian prion proteins (PrPs). However, whereas prion diseases are rare, the incidence of these neurodegenerative pathologies is high. Malignant tumors involving mutated forms of the tumor suppressor p53 protein seem to have similar substrata. The aggregation of the entire p53 protein and three functional domains of p53 into amyloid oligomers and fibrils has been demonstrated. Amyloid aggregates of mutant p53 have been detected in breast cancer and malignant skin tumors. Most p53 mutations related to cancer development are found in the DNA-binding domain (p53C), which has been experimentally shown to form amyloid oligomers and fibrils. Several computation programs have corroborated the predicted propensity of p53C to form aggregates, and some of these programs suggest that p53C is more likely to form aggregates than the globular domain of PrP. Overall, studies imply that mutant p53 exerts a dominant-negative regulatory effect on wild-type (WT) p53 and exerts gain-of-function effects when co-aggregating with other proteins such as p63, p73 and acetyltransferase p300. We review here the prion-like behavior of oncogenic p53 mutants that provides an explanation for their dominant-negative and gain-of-function properties and for the high metastatic potential of cancers bearing p53 mutations. The inhibition of the aggregation of p53 into oligomeric and fibrillar amyloids appears to be a promising target for therapeutic intervention in malignant tumor diseases.

PMID:
24509441
DOI:
10.4161/pri.27776
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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