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J Biol Chem. 1998 Sep 25;273(39):25198-202.

Tumor suppressor p53 as a component of the tumor necrosis factor-induced, protein kinase PKR-mediated apoptotic pathway in human promonocytic U937 cells.

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The Moses Grossman Infectious Diseases Laboratory, Department of Pediatrics, San Francisco General Hospital and University of California, San Francisco, California 94110, USA.


Despite what is known about the early signaling events in tumor necrosis factor (TNF) alpha-induced apoptosis, characterization of the downstream events remains largely undefined. It is now known that a cross-talk exists between the interferon and TNF-alpha pathways. This linkage allows recruitment of the cell proliferation suppressor PKR (dsRNA-dependent protein kinase) from the interferon pathway to play a pivotal role in TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis. In this study, we took advantage of the differential TNF-alpha susceptibilities of human promonocytic U937 subclones, deficient in or overexpressing PKR, to further characterize the role of PKR in apoptosis. By reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, we demonstrated that TNF-alpha transiently induces the tumor suppressor p53 in U937 cells. This p53 induction lags behind the TNF-alpha induction of PKR by 1 h. By cell viability determination, ultrastructural studies, apoptotic DNA laddering, and antisense techniques, it was shown that inhibition of p53 expression in PKR-overexpressing U937 cells abrogates the TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis in these cells. Conversely, overexpressing wild type p53 in PKR-deficient U937 cells confers the susceptibility of these cells to TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis. This latter result indicates that p53 induction is an event downstream of TNF-alpha-induced up-regulation of PKR, thereby further establishing the critical role of p53 in TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis in U937 cells. PKR-overexpressing U937 cells were found to possess a constitutively higher level of p53, which partly explains why these cells spontaneously undergo apoptosis even without TNF-alpha treatment. Finally, a model is presented on the interplay between PKR and p53 in effecting TNF-alpha-induced apoptosis in U937 cells.

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