The p53 protein plays a critical role in the prevention of cancer. It responds to a variety of cellular stresses to induce either apoptosis, a transient cell cycle arrest, or a terminal cell cycle arrest called senescence. Senescence in cultured cells is associated with augmented p53 activity and abrogation of p53 activity may delay in vitro senescence. Increasing evidence suggests that p53 may also influence aspects of organismal aging. Several mutant mouse models that display alterations in longevity and aging-related phenotypes have defects in genes that alter p53 signaling. Recently, my laboratory has developed and characterized a p53 mutant mouse line that appears to have an enhanced p53 response. These p53 mutants exhibit increased cancer resistance, yet have a shortened longevity and display a number of early aging-associated phenotypes, suggesting a role for p53 in the aging process. The nature of the aging phenotypes observed in this p53 mutant line is consistent with a model in which aging is driven in part by a gradual depletion of stem cell functional capacity.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.