Abnormal expression of wild type p53 protein in normal cells of a cancer family patient

Lancet. 1992 Aug 1;340(8814):259-63. doi: 10.1016/0140-6736(92)92354-i.


Mutations in the p53 gene are the commonest specific genetic change in human cancer. In normal tissues, p53 protein is present in such low quantities that it is not readily detectable by immunochemical techniques. However, in many tumour cells large amounts of p53 protein accumulate and can be seen by simple immunohistochemical staining; this is generally attributed to the accumulation of stabilised, mutant protein. We have found a mother and daughter, who both have a history of breast cancer, who show strong immunohistochemical staining of p53 in most of their normal epithelial and mesenchymal cells. Their family has a history of multiple cancers developing at an early age. Detailed protein analysis and gene sequencing of material obtained from cultured cells, grown from a skin biopsy taken from the daughter, suggest that her cells contained large quantities of normal (unmutated) p53. We suggest that this phenotype defines a new inherited cancer susceptibility syndrome that is distinct from the germ-line mutations in p53 found in some Li-Fraumeni families. This new syndrome affects p53 tumour suppressor function through an indirect mechanism that stabilises normal p53. It remains to be established whether this mechanism also contributes to the accumulation of p53 in sporadic cancers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Base Sequence
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, p53 / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pedigree
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / isolation & purification


  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53