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Genes Dev. 1994 May 15;8(10):1235-46.

Several hydrophobic amino acids in the p53 amino-terminal domain are required for transcriptional activation, binding to mdm-2 and the adenovirus 5 E1B 55-kD protein.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Princeton University, New Jersey 08544-1014.


The p53 tumor suppressor gene product is a transcriptional activator that may be associated with its ability to suppress tumor cell growth. The acidic amino terminus of the p53 protein has been shown to contain this trans-activation activity as well as the domains for mdm-2 and adenovirus 5 E1B 55-kD protein binding. An extensive genetic analysis of this amino-terminal p53 domain has been undertaken using site-specific mutagenesis. The results demonstrate that the acidic residues in the amino terminus of p53 may contribute to, but are not critical for, this trans-activation activity. Rather, the hydrophobic amino acid residues Leu-22 and Trp-23 of human p53 are both required for trans-activation activity, binding to the adenovirus E1B 55-kD protein and the human mdm-2-p53 protein in vitro. In addition, hydrophobic residues Leu-14 and Phe-19 are crucial for the interactions between p53 and human mdm-2 (hdm-2). Hydrophobic residues Trp-23 and Pro-27 are also important for binding to the adenovirus 5 (Ad5) E1B 55-kD protein in vitro. These mutations have no impact on the ability of the p53 protein to bind to a p53-specific DNA element. These results suggest that 2-4 critical hydrophobic residues in the amino-terminal domain of the p53 protein interact with the transcriptional machinery of the cell resulting in transcriptional activation. These very same hydrophobic residues contact the hdm-2 and Ad5 E1B 55-kD oncogene products.

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