High levels of the p53 inhibitor MDM4 in head and neck squamous carcinomas

Hum Pathol. 2007 Oct;38(10):1553-62. doi: 10.1016/j.humpath.2007.03.005. Epub 2007 Jul 24.


The p53 tumor suppressor is mutated in most human tumors. MDM2, a well-known inhibitor of p53, is overexpressed in a large number of tumors, suggesting that increased levels of MDM2 also contribute to tumorigenesis. A novel p53 inhibitor, MDM4, was more recently identified. The role of MDM4 in cancer development is not well understood. We set out to examine the levels of MDM4 by immunohistochemistry in head and neck squamous carcinomas (HNSC) to ask whether high MDM4 levels could contribute to its development and progression. In addition, MDM2 and p53 levels were examined to identify overlapping expression patterns. MDM4 is present at high levels in 50% of HNSC. In addition, overexpression of MDM2 was detected in 80% of tumors, many of which were also positive for MDM4. A subset of tumors displayed high levels of all 3 proteins. Sequencing of the p53 gene revealed that tumors with positive immunoreactivity for MDM2 or MDM4, some of which also had high levels of p53, did not carry mutations in this gene. Thus, the detection of p53 by immunohistochemistry was not synonymous with the presence of p53 mutations. Expression of both MDM2 and MDM4 in tumors without p53 mutations strongly suggests that MDM2 and MDM4 inhibit the activity of this tumor suppressor in HNSC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / genetics
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism*
  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • DNA Mutational Analysis
  • Gene Expression
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / genetics
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Mutation
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2 / metabolism
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid
  • Transfection
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics


  • Cell Cycle Proteins
  • MDM4 protein, human
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • MDM2 protein, human
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-mdm2