p63 and p73: life and death in squamous cell carcinoma

Cell Cycle. 2006 May;5(9):936-40. doi: 10.4161/cc.5.9.2716. Epub 2006 May 1.


The p53 family member p63 plays an essential role in the developing epithelium, and overexpression of the DeltaNp63alpha isoform is frequently observed in human squamous cell carcinomas (SCCs). These findings have suggested that DeltaNp63alpha might function as an oncogene within squamous epithelial cells. Nevertheless, the mechanism by which DeltaNp63alpha might promote tumorigenesis remains poorly understood, and data from mouse models implies that the p63 locus might in fact function as a tumor suppressor in these same tissues. A recent study using RNA interference in human SCC-derived cell lines shows that DeltaNp63alpha mediates an essential survival function in human SCC cells by virtue of its ability to suppress the pro-apoptotic function of the related p53 family member p73. These findings support an oncogenic role for DeltaNp63alpha and they demonstrate the existence of critical physical and functional interactions between endogenous p53 family members in human cancer. Specific chemotherapeutic agents and future targeted approaches may be able to exploit this pathway to therapeutic advantage.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / therapy
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genes, Tumor Suppressor / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / physiology*
  • Phosphoproteins / genetics
  • Phosphoproteins / physiology*
  • RNA Interference
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / physiology*
  • Transcription Factors
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Protein p73
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • TP63 protein, human
  • TP73 protein, human
  • Trans-Activators
  • Transcription Factors
  • Trp73 protein, mouse
  • Tumor Protein p73
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins