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Mol Cell Biol. 1993 Jul;13(7):4242-50.

Induction of cellular p53 activity by DNA-damaging agents and growth arrest.

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Laboratory of Molecular Pharmacology, National Cancer Institute, Bethesda, Maryland 20892.

Erratum in

  • Mol Cell Biol 1993 Sep;13(9):5928.


The tumor suppressor p53 can function as a sequence-specific transcription factor and is required for activation by ionizing radiation (IR) of one or more downstream effector genes, such as the human GADD45 gene. One important consequence of IR that is probably mediated by these downstream effector genes is activation of the p53-mediated G1 cell cycle checkpoint. While the induction of reporter constructs containing p53-binding sites has already been demonstrated with p53 expression vectors, we have now demonstrated the direct activation of such a construct after treatment of the human RKO line, which has a normal p53 phenotype, with various types of DNA-damaging agents and also after growth arrest produced by medium depletion (starvation). IR, UV radiation, and methylmethane sulfonate were found to induce p53 activity when a stably integrated reporter construct containing functional p53-binding sites was used and also in mobility shift assays with a p53-binding site from the GADD45 gene, and IR-inducible gene previously associated with growth arrest. The same cell treatments that induced this p53 activity also caused an increase in cellular p53 protein levels. The response in cells lacking normal p53 or in RKO cells expressing a dominant negative mutant p53 was markedly reduced. Interestingly, the spectrum of effective inducing agents for the above-described experiments was similar to that which induces GADD45 either in cells with a normal p53 status or, with the exception of IR, in cells lacking normal p53. These results indicate a role for p53 in the IR pathway, which is completely p53 dependent, and in other genotoxic stress responses, in which p53 has a cooperative effect but is not required.

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