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Oncogene. 2015 May 28;34(22):2943-8. doi: 10.1038/onc.2014.230. Epub 2014 Aug 4.

Mice engineered for an obligatory Mdm4 exon skipping express higher levels of the Mdm4-S isoform but exhibit increased p53 activity.

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1] Institut Curie, Centre de recherche, Genetics of Tumor Suppression (Equipe Labellisée Ligue 2014), Paris, France [2] UPMC Univ Paris 06, Paris, France [3] CNRS UMR 3244, Paris, France.
Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Mdm4, a protein related to the ubiquitin-ligase Mdm2, is an essential inhibitor of tumor suppressor protein p53. In both human and mouse cells, the Mdm4 gene encodes two major transcripts: one encodes the full-length oncoprotein (designated below as Mdm4-FL), whereas the other, resulting from a variant splicing that skips exon 6, encodes the shorter isoform Mdm4-S. Importantly, increased Mdm4-S mRNA levels were observed in several human cancers, and correlated with poor survival. However, the role of Mdm4-S in cancer progression remains controversial, because the Mdm4-S protein appeared to be a potent p53 inhibitor when overexpressed, but the splice variant also leads to a decrease in Mdm4-FL expression. To unambiguously determine the physiological impact of the Mdm4-S splice variant, we generated a mouse model with a targeted deletion of the Mdm4 exon 6, thereby creating an obligatory exon skipping. The mutant allele (Mdm4(ΔE6)) prevented the expression of Mdm4-FL, but also led to increased Mdm4-S mRNA levels. Mice homozygous for this allele died during embryonic development, but were rescued by a concomitant p53 deficiency. Furthermore in a hypomorphic p53(ΔP/ΔP) context, the Mdm4(ΔE6) allele led to p53 activation and delayed the growth of oncogene-induced tumors. We next determined the effect of Mdm4(+/ΔE6) heterozygosity in a hypermorphic p53(+/Δ31) genetic background, recently shown to be extremely sensitive to Mdm4 activity. Mdm4(+/ΔE6) p53(+/Δ31) pups were born, but suffered from aplastic anemia and died before weaning, again indicating an increased p53 activity. Our results demonstrate that the main effect of a skipping of Mdm4 exon 6 is not the synthesis of the Mdm4-S protein, but rather a decrease in Mdm4-FL expression. These and other data suggest that increased Mdm4-S mRNA levels might correlate with more aggressive cancers without encoding significant amounts of a potential oncoprotein. Hypotheses that may account for this apparent paradox are discussed.

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