p53 alterations in human cancer: more questions than answers

Oncogene. 2007 Apr 2;26(15):2145-56. doi: 10.1038/sj.onc.1210280.


The strongest and undisputed fact about p53 is the high frequency of p53 alterations in human cancer and that mutant p53 proteins constitute a complex family of several hundred proteins with heterogeneous properties. Beyond these observations, the p53 pathway and its regulation in a normal cell is like a desert trail, always moving with the wind of novel findings. The field is full of black boxes that are often ignored for sake of simplicity or because they do not fit with the current dominant view. Mutant p53 protein accumulation in tumours is the best example of a preconceived idea, as there is no experimental evidence to explain this observation. In this review, we will discuss several questions concerning the activity or selection of p53 mutations. The central domain of the p53 protein targeted by 80% of p53 mutations is associated with the DNA-binding activity of the p53 protein, but it is also the binding site for several proteins that play a key role in p53 regulation such as ASPP proteins or BclxL. The role of impaired DNA binding and/or protein interactions in tumour development has not been fully elucidated. Similarly, novel animal models carrying either missense p53 mutations or inducible p53 have provided abundant observations, some of which could challenge our view on p53 function as a tumour suppressor gene. Finally, the possible clinical applications of p53 will be discussed.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Binding Sites
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • DNA Methylation
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics*
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*
  • bcl-X Protein / metabolism


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Apoptosis Regulatory Proteins
  • Carrier Proteins
  • PPP1R13B protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-X Protein